Screen time is one of the biggest headaches in my parenting life, and it’s only gotten more stressful as my two sons have gotten older and more capable with consoles, tablets, and computers. In fact, the overriding theme of Christmas 2017 in my house was a running battle over screen time.
At least it was an educated battle, from my perspective.
Over the past couple years of writing about kids and technology, I’ve encountered a number of screen-time studies that challenged some of my assumptions and changed my parenting approach in this area. Here are six that continue to strike a chord.
Screen-Time Guidelines Aren’t Set in Stone
What’s the Study?
Researchers from the Oxford Internet Institute and Cardiff University interviewed 20,000 parents of two-to-five-year-olds, asking about their children’s screen usage and its impact on their happiness and behavior. The study’s aim was to find out whether the often-quoted guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics—limiting screen time to one hour a day for two-to-five-year-olds—remains correct.
“Taken together, our findings suggest that there is little or no support for the theory that digital screen use, on its own, is bad for young children’s psychological wellbeing. If anything, our findings suggest the broader family context, how parents set rules about digital screen time, and if they’re actively engaged in exploring the digital world together, are more important than the raw screen time.”
How It Changed My Parenting
The parents in this study had younger children than my kids, ages eight and 10, but the key findings still rang true for me: This isn’t just about setting time limits, and screen time can be something creative and fun that we do together, rather than something my children do alone while I nag them to come out on a walk.
“Actively engaging in exploring the digital world together,” at its most basic level, now involves me getting walloped at Rocket League by my joyful eight-year-old rather than leaving him to it, or sitting down with my ten-year-old to watch…