the IT city, the I.T. Baby


American Academy of Pediatrics rethinks screen time

Digitally connected babyWith 38% of all children under two years of age having had hands-on with technology (tablets, computers, mobile phones, TV,) since they were able to notice and interact with them, and with the advice to discourage screen time stemming from (relatively,) antiquated research into the subject (back in the dinosaur days of the tablet revolution,) the American Academy of Pediatrics is rethinking suggestions on screen time.

You can grab the entire Growing Up Digital: Media Research Symposium text here

You can read their summary here: Beyond ‘turn it off’: How to advise families on media use.

Basically you should now consider screen time the same as any other time with some exceptions if you’re following their suggestions in the first place.

Highlights from the symposium:

  • 12-24 months children learn language significantly worse from a device (computer, tablet, tv, tape, audio recording,) than from a human. They need two-way communication in order to properly learn, and that requires someone observing them. Oddly Maggie was in a study like this when she was a baby.
  • With 80,000 apps labeled as educational, probably most of them aren’t. You’ll need to pay attention to if the app is any good or not rather than throwing your kid a series of educational apps and hoping they learn.
  • Well designed games can make your child more prone to learn and experiment and (presumably,) feel safe making decisions and accepting repercussions.
  • Violent games are an issue according to the Media and Violence: Influence on Social and Emotional Development report. However they were unable to determine how a solid home and parents would counteract that. So probably keep your current opinion. It seemed a little like they wanted more funding to attempt to define where it would be a problem.
  • There is no “online me” and “real world me” for teens according to The Digital Social Lives of Teens panel. A person is just “me” now that everyone’s probably online.
  • Sexting is done by 3% of boys and 6% of girls aged 13-18, not 390% of all teens like the media portrays.
  • The Safety and Citizenship panel concluded the internet’s influence on building a civic voice and political efficacy were about on par with old traditional media. So, your kids aren’t being brainwashed by the liberal elite (or so the liberal-elite controlled media would have you believe).
  • Gamification can be a powerful learning tool.
  • Diversity matters as this is how children perceive the real world.
  • Screen media can adversely affect sleep (see our F.Lux piece from Feb 2014. this is extremely old research now and that it’s just getting to the pediatric association guidelines scares me).
  • As with anything, you can get addicted.
  • Parenting has not changed.
  • Unplugged playtime is important, especially for the very young.

So what are the new recommendations?

Set limits

These are your limits, not some arbitrary number. Know what you’re putting off or cancelling so your child can have screen time. Got something awesome to do? Do it instead of screen time. Is it going to be a cold miserable day and you have no clue what to do because you’re down with the flu? Let them entertain and learn.

Teach them some manners. Digital etiquette is the same as real, it’s taught by you. If you let your kid grow up with no respect for online people, there’s no respect for real people.

Use the devices with them

You don’t have to be looking over their shoulders all the time, but if you’re clueless as to what they’re saying or doing, well, you’re clueless. Educate yourself so they don’t go psycho on the internet, but don’t think that taking screens away from them because you can’t understand them is a positive thing.

Media free zones

Some places and times have no media. This needs to be stressed. There are times to talk, times to paint, and times to not be slaved to a blinky box. They don’t really make any suggestions here other than to note it.

Random commentary by some guy on the internet who’s not a doctor and is telling you how to live your life and parent

Having been in front of a screen since I was a little one, starting programming when I was a kid, and spending 30+ years after that with BBSes, chat rooms, and the Internet that came afterwards, I’ve always been a fan of how people come up with reasons that media makes detached, antagonistic, stupid, school failures, creates addictions, or somehow causes autism.

Nothing’s changed since we didn’t have this particular the screen to blame. We just have names for what used to be called the weird kid, and a thousand new things to blame.

Early on it was theorized that the flashing lights of a TV somehow triggered your brain to turn you into a learning zombie or TV addict (the TV technology that flashed to produce images has been gone all of this century unless I am missing my guess.) CRTs are gone. Long live LED, AMOLED, plasma, etc. We’re also no longer living in the days of Japanese Seizure Robots

When it was advised that children shouldn’t be exposed to screens of any sort before age two – if I remember right that was based on the flashing lights of a CRT as radiation bombarded the cathode ray tube producing 24 unique frames (flashes) per second. As I recall they warned it could cause developmental disorders when I was a kid. This is recollection, this may be invalid.

Also back then TV couldn’t talk back, interact, play games with you, or teach you anything except what passed for educational programming at the hour you happened to be watching. Watch some 80s and 90’s tv now, you’ll understand. The warnings were somewhat true.

In the world of non-interaction, all time watching anything except educational programming was probably time not spent learning anything. But we do need some downtime.

Screens don’t flash any more, there aren’t rays of radiation shooting at your face (ok, technically any light emitted is radiation,) you learn things such as there are 450 million goats on planet earth with 230 different breeds just by asking a question out loud to a nearby phone, there are educational games and apps that help you learn how to think and question the world. We haven’t been in the world that “screen time” was launched in for a long time, even when those advisories were launched it was outdated.

But with all of these things you have to be with your kids, or you’re simply not with your kids. It’s as simple as that.

A child alone on social media is a child alone in the world. If you’re unable to join them, at least find out what’s going on with them. “She posted what? Hold on a minute, let me get my boom stick.”

So what’s this mean?

It’s your call as a parent to make choices for your child, but that somehow a tablet will destroy an infant’s learning capabilities or screw up a child’s development if they play with it for two hours and six minutes, or touch it before they’ve reached 17,520 hours of age, is mostly garbage.

In other words: quit worrying about an arbitrary number and a device. Focus on the person that’s becoming in front of you, learn how they’re learning, and enjoy things.

Or ignore all of this, blame technology for increasing autism rates (no, they’re not, just more things are considered on the autism spectrum these days and more white helicopter parents are worried so more parents test,) violence rates (no, really, they’ve been going down since the 80’s but in a straight line since 1994) or whatever you’re wanting to blame other than parents doing a shitty job.

Paul King

Paul King lives in Nashville Tennessee with his wife, two daughters and cats. He writes for Pocketables, theITBaby, and is an IT consultant along with doing tech support for a film production company.