Screen time is not one flavour
Posted February 1, 2016on:
There have been recommendations about limiting screen time for kids. Then there was the take back for some of those recommendations. More recently there were these suggestions for how to rationalise screen time for and with kids.
These articles might share a similar fixation, which is viewing screen time as one activity. It is not.
If you have a child, watch them as they use the same mobile device for different activities. If you do not, imagine what that looks like.
Just because it looks the same does not mean it is.
The child could be watching YouTube videos, or just as likely, the parent could be letting the videos nanny the child. People like to call this passive consumption of media and compare this to watching television. Articles that recommend strict limits tend to adopt this school of thought.
The child could also be interacting and communicating with others. The sheer number of text, voice, and video-based tools for these activities will create a lot of screen time for adults wanting to find out what these are.
The child could also be co-creating in Minecraft, remixing in GarageBand, designing memes in a Photoshop-like tool, or, gasp, submitting some homework in Edmodo.
The communicating and creating activities are vital skills as the child grows, and these practices continue into adulthood. This is like predator cubs learning by play and practice as they grow up and when they are grown up.
Can a standard set of recommendations and strategies deal with a diverse set of activities? More importantly, can adults who do not look through the eyes of a child (or not do what the child does) relate to why the child loves “screen time”?
No. So I recommend a switch in world view.
If you are going to restrict your kids, restrict yourself first and see how you like it. Do not read e-books while on your daily commute. Do not binge on Netflix. Do not Instagram your food. Do not Facebook micro facets of your day. Do not do any work that involves a screen.
How much can you do in modern life without screen time? How do you set a number on it and how do you decide what is good and bad?
You start by not making assumptions as an adult. You continue by doing as a child would, living in the child’s world, and projecting where you can into the child’s future.
This is not to say that there should not be any rules or negotiation. But these do not come first. The child does.
For a better set of ideas and recommendations, I recommend Mind/Shift’s How to Provide Kids With Screen Time That Supports Learning.