Screen time. One of the most talked about subjects when it comes to parenting. How much is too much? Are there any real benefits to screen time? How do we regulate it? As parents doing our best to raise the first tech generation, we need tools to help us find ways to better navigate and balance screen time. We should take an active role in helping our children embrace technology and screen time in a way that will benefit them today and throughout their lives. Here are some things to consider:
SCREENS ARE NOT THE PROBLEM
Screens are not, in fact, the problem. Technology in and of itself is a vehicle that allows for some incredible advances in our world. From distribution of information to state-of-the-art medical procedures and out-of-this-world (literally) space exploration, what happens on a screen can be an awesome force for good. What matters is how we implement the use of screens in our home.
ACTIVE VERSUS PASSIVE SCREEN TIME
There are two types of screen consumption with two very different outcomes. When trying to assess the benefit of screen time, consider whether it is active or passive:
Passive consumption is when a child passively consumes digital content. No thought, creativity or interaction is required to progress. Passive activities can include scrolling through social media, watching videos on YouTube (especially if auto play is on, i.e. the next video is not watched for any reason other than that it was offered), browsing the internet, or playing repetitive games and binge-watching shows.
Active screen time, on the other hand, involves cognitive and/or physical engagement in the process of device usage. This might include activities like making YouTube videos, playing educational games, editing pictures, coding a website, designing digital space, etc. Even video games can be considered active screen time if they promote physical or cognitive activity. Active screen time engages the user and requires effort to be made to progress. It results in developing new skills, both those directly related to the technology used and those used in all situations, like communication, collaboration, and persistence.
AGE APPROPRIATE SCREEN CONSUMPTION
As children grow, they mature, and their needs and abilities change. The amount of recommended screen time changes with that growth. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend any screen time for children under the age of 2. They suggest children age 2-5 be limited to 1 hour per day of high-quality screen time where parents co-participate. For children age 6 and older (including teens), the AAP recommends parents place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.
CREATE A FAMILY PLAN
Exactly how much digital consumption is “okay” becomes a personal quest of parents and youth. It is critical that a media plan is though out, decided on, and implemented consistently. When creating your family plan, I echo a suggestion found on TechAgeKids:
We argue that parents need to understand their children’s use of digital media in terms contexts (where, how, when and with what effects children are accessing digital media), content (what they are watching and using) and connections (how digital media are facilitating or undermining relationships) in order to frame their responses.
When media is used appropriately, it can enhance daily life. What kinds of screen time will you allow in your home? How will you play an active role in teaching your children to use that time appropriately? How will you value active/passive screen time differently?
Each family’s plan will look different from the next. What matters is that you take the time to create one tailored to your family, and that you stick to it. Good luck!