The Messy Truth About Kids’ Screen Time
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The belief that the time spent in front of a screen IT’S ROTTING THE BRAIN AND BODY OF OUR CHILDREN is being rebuilt.
Before and especially during the pandemic, parents, doctors and researchers turned to a more nuanced message that could be both heartwarming and confusing: Screen time or technology can be good for children but also good for children. Wrong. It depends.
Child development expert and mom Dr Colleen Russo Johnson said it’s high time to move away from extreme and unrealistic views on children’s screen time. She told me that there are few absolutes about what kids should or shouldn’t do with technology and media. And it would help if caregivers did not feel judged, regardless of their choices.
“We have to stop seeing this as a black and white problem,” Dr Russo Johnson told me. “You don’t want your kids to be glued to the screens all the time. It’s common sense, “she said.” But these things aren’t bad. There is a lot of variety and not everything is created equal.
Dr Russo Johnson co-founded a children’s media and tech company, so she takes advantage if parents think screen time is acceptable. But she is one of many voices calling for rethinking the view that time spent with technology is bad.
Dr Russo Johnson said extreme tech messages from kids have been particularly harmful to parents, for whom providing screen time may be the best option. Maybe playing outside isn’t available or is unsafe, and some parents need their kids to be on a screen while they juggle work and other responsibilities.
During the pandemic, said Dr Russo Johnson, “everyone has been through this reality for a while.” This has led more parents and researchers to recognize that it is not always clear what a “healthy balance” is for children with screens.
So how do we move beyond the view that screen time MAKES YOUNG MONSTERS to happier middle ground? Dr Russo Johnson had a few ways for parents to think about screen time – although these weren’t the rules. There are no rules ! She said a question parents can ask is, “How does this particular device or screen, technology or feature improve or hurt the experience?” “
Dr Russo Johnson said caregivers can sometimes look for digital media or technology that encourages young children to get creative and do activities away from the screen, like going on a scavenger hunt or dressing up in from onscreen prompts.
She is a fan of Toca Boca and Sago Mini’s apps that encourage young children to explore open-ended games without too much instruction. Dr. Russo Johnson’s company, OK Play, makes children and their families central characters in stories and games.
That’s not to say that more passive activities like watching a video are all bad, she said. When possible, it can be beneficial for parents to engage with their children when they use an app, read a book, or watch on screen, but not always. Alone time is good for kids too. Again, no rules!
If you aren’t careful what your kids are doing online, they might find some nooks and crannies on the internet. But Dr Russo Johnson said parents shouldn’t be too worried if kids come out of a neat digital world. She said she had shown her 4 year old daughter videos of French songs before, walked away for a little while and came back to see her daughter watching YouTube videos showing toys playing poorly scripted stories .
Instead of panicking, Dr Russo Johnson said it was helpful to wonder why his daughter might have been drawn to these videos.
She recognizes that the lack of clear rules and the amount of technology available to children can also seem like a burden. “With streaming and apps, anyone can post anything, which takes more work from parents,” she said.
I asked him why expert recommendations and the beliefs of many parents about children and technology have been focused on fear for so long.
Dr Russo Johnson said these views reflect perpetual anxieties about children and how we react to anything new.
“Child development research will never happen at the speed of technology,” she said, “And we will default to fear-based decision making… So many people will embrace it. ‘approach, if we don’t know for sure, then it’s bad and we should avoid it.
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Kisses to that
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