In the digital age, it’s become conventional wisdom that too much screen time is a bad thing for our kids. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids under the age of two have no screen time at all, and that kids over two watch no more than 1 to 2 hours a day.
Numerous studies have chronicled both the rise in overall media consumption and the correlation between too much screen time and poor academic performance. As a result, parents are constantly reminded to monitor screen time and restrict it as much as possible.
Unfortunately, that’s becoming increasingly hard to do. Think of all the screens that are now commonplace around the home. There are multiple TVs of course, but then there might be desktop computers, laptops, iPads, iPods, Kindles, smartphones, gaming devices – the list is almost endless. Are all these screens equally bad or are some screens worse than others?
The reality is that screens will be an increasing part of our kids’ lives, not less. Most schools now schedule computer time at school. Some schools even make a point of providing each child with a laptop and require them to be in use for virtually every class.
The use of computers, iPads, and other devices is even more pronounced at higher learning institutions, where a recent Associated Press poll found that the average students stares into a screen for over 6 hours a day. (That’s nothing – I estimate that on an average day, I’m looking at some kind of screen for at least 10 hours!)
So how do we decide good screen time from bad screen time?
Clearly it’s down to content. An hour spent prepping for a test on NationalGeographic.com is a totally different experience for a child than watching an hour of cartoons on Nickelodeon. An hour playing the Watch Dogs video game is clearly not the same as an hour reading a good book on a Kindle.
So the next time you worry about your child and too much screen time, stop to consider what kind of screen time they are experiencing. I don’t think it will ever be like good cholesterol and bad cholesterol, but maybe there’s bad screen time and not-quite-so-bad screen time!