Limiting “Screen Time”

thThe pediatricians at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have spoken (again): Children should be limited to less than 2 hours of “screen-time” per day. Of course they do make a critical distinction in their statement, that the “screen-time” being limited is entertainment-based.

My father was a former AAP board pediatrician, so these AAP press releases can be tiresome, even if they are right some of the time with what can be seen as basic common sense advice.

It reminds me of something my high school calculus teacher told us: “I don’t give out extra credit. Those that can do it, don’t need it. And, those that need it, couldn’t do it.” The point is that parents who know already do, and the parents of blossoming potatoes have probably already lost the battle (especially if the parents, themselves, are tubers).

It is really pretty simple.

Are the children just sitting mindlessly drooling while pictures stream before them? Is it really educational?

Are they interacting with others via text or e-mail in a meaningful way?  That is probably a whole topic of itself.

Or, are they using the tools to be creative (writing, making music, or creating more media by learning to program)?

Where is the computer and T.V. located? Ours are in the common areas. There is only one T.V., three computers (if you count the Apple //e), an iPad, and an iPod.

We’ve set up the kids’ accounts to limit them to specific hours during the day, targeting a 2 hour limit; often they have self regulated before the time limit is hit, and they have learned to logout if they need to save time for later. Occasionally, if they are working on something particularly interesting we will grant them more time.

They are becoming good little data miners. The jury is still out on whether such skills will pay off, but GranolaGirl is a master at digging for facts in the morass of information at our fingertips; so at the very least we’ve had the opportunity to bolster their skepticism and resistance to media.

Some days we may grant them too much time and even melt our brains in a movie marathon, but we adapt and atone with other unplugged activities the next day.

All things in moderation; and even moderation should be taken in moderation.

In the end, we must be the parents, and I’ll take the pediatricians’ advice as just that… common sense advice.



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