10 May 2018
The Screen Time Action Network Conference on April 20-21 at Wheelock College brought together pediatricians, child development experts, teachers, directors, family counselors and technology developers for discussions about the effects of screen use on children, especially young children. The most exciting news that came from the discussions is that parents can be very effective in their efforts to set limits on the amount and content of screen time. Limit setting does make a difference. The frightening news is that many parents are not setting limits and children are suffering from overuse of screens and exposure to inappropriate content.
Many parents discuss feeling pressure from their children, other parents and even teachers to purchase smart phones, tablets and other devices. There is particular emphasis on “educational” screen content to help children become smarter and not get “left behind.” That message seems to dominate the general culture. When children are on screens, too, they are generally quiet and “safe” in terms of not running into traffic. There is a lot of justification generally available for using screens.
The problem? Evidence-based research demonstrates consistently and undeniably that children learn best through interactions with other real-life human beings and with open-ended whole-body exploration of materials. Screen use, in contrast, contributes to obesity, depression, poor self-regulation, language delay, sleep disorders, attention deficit issues and lack of three-dimensional vision. Violent sexualized content is widespread, unregulated and with frightening frequency features children’s favorite animated characters. Superhero content is especially powerful, because it justifies violence as long as you are the good guy, as the often repeated and consistent results of the “Barney vs Power Rangers” experiment illustrates: www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXbS4Uaaiww