Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Food Pyramid for Screen Time

Some 'old-fashioned' parents see screen time of all kinds as bad for kids - like junk food for their brains.  Honestly I would put myself in that category.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 2 hours or less of screen time per day.  I control screen time for my two kids like it is potentially lethal.  One of my girls has to earn her screen time in 5 minute increments each day.  There is a timer at our house dedicated to tracking screen time.  Just imagine the damage to their developing minds if they spent an extra minute or two looking at a screen - TV, computer, or handheld game.

And then I think of my classroom where I lavish 40 or 45 minutes of screen time on my students just for showing up!  There is a real disconnect here!

I know that unsupervised, unrestricted screen time can be bad for kids (and adults for that matter).  There is inane, even violent and offensive content available to kids.  I don't think that 45 minutes of Mario Kart is necessarily the best way to spend time, but is that equivalent to 45 minutes on FossWeb or reading a book on TumbleBooks?  We need to start thinking about the quality of the content and encourage our kids to make good choices with their screen time.


Alison LeSueur said...

Laura, I think this is going to be really hard to change since we adults are also addicted to our screens. Since screen time in schools is likely to go up, it seems we will have to monitor screen time at home even more and like you said, make it USEFUL screen time. What concerns me is that some parents see nothing wrong with their 2nd grader playing Halo, etc. (I was shocked to find out that many of my students do play those violent games.) Your post makes me think I have to be more careful about giving computer time as a reward. Maybe next time, we'll take a walk in the wood.

On a personal note, when my 19 year old son was young, I did not monitor his screen time very much (there were less screens back then plenty of computer games, TV, etc.) He is now a freshman at APP, living without cable TV, and spends 90% of his free time on his bike in the woods. We did nothing to create this except to encourage bike riding. It still amazes me - I spend WAY more time in front of screens than he does!

Laura B. Fogle said...

I am shocked to hear that 2nd graders are playing Halo and other violent games. I have asked my students about how many have FaceBook pages but never imagined they would be playing those kind of games.

I certainly do spend a lot of screen time myself and need to model good balance for my kids. It is encouraging to hear that your son has found a healthy balance.

I think I am going to start thinking about it more as brain-engaged versus brain-not-engaged time for my children. If they are thinking and being creative on a screen (like programming in Alice) I will count that differently than Webkinz which is relatively mindless.