“Screen time” is the word of the decade when it comes to parenting. How should it be limited, in order to get your kids into adulthood in one working piece? Oh but might there be more to it than just that, screen time? Let’s get down and dirty with screen time!
So I gather you’ve heard about screen time and that it should be limited, lest your kids will turn into psychotic junkies, addicted to the digital equivalent of heroin.
Why is that, you might say. Well, according to the modern version of people shouting about video violence in the 90s, rock and roll in the 50s, swing music in the 30s and soft cover books in the noughties (the previous one that is), computers are too fun, once they get ahold of your kids it won’t let go and their minds will wither away. No more imagination, no more playing with toys and no more physical activities forever and ever – goodbye life see you never.
Well, I’d say that’s not the complete picture, as might the opposition. But let me give you a rundown of this.
Computers are a major revolution in human history, it compares to the industrial revolution which brought humankind from a mainly agricultural world into the modern era. Anyone who thinks their kids are better off clinging to the plow when their neighbors get a tractor might not have super thankful kids later on. Computers are here to stay so we’d better do our best to understand them and use them well.
So what about the addictiveness? Well in many computer games and on websites you’ll find what is called “intermittent reinforcement”, a technique where the user will get some kind of reward (eg leveling in World of Warcraft or “oh! funny cat video!” on Facebook) at a non-fixed time rate. It will make you want more and hopefully may make you stay longer. This is the same thing you get from reading the great book you can’t put down, managing to complete that super difficult part on the piano or getting that sms from the girl/guy you were on a date with.
The problem with computers are that they might be used in a way that’s not very productive, legal or awesome.
This is as with much other stuff out there, there parents has to be involved, interested and leading the way.
A kid with parents who take part in their digital life might learn lots of great things from computers, play games that teach them to read, communicate – possibly a second language, puzzel solving, strategic thinking or a plethora of other incredibly good things to bring into adulthood.
The question is not in what amount of screen time kids should have but what that time is filled with.
I’m also sad to say that you as a parent has to act as a good example. If you fill your day with hours of empty brained staring at the Scroll Of Death (Facebook, Insta, what ever) your kids will do the same.
You might not want to start your day with checking the latest feeds, unless you want your kid to do the same.
But you really should get your kids a screen and you should give them a couple of good games and apps and that will make them look back at your parenting as something good and modern as opposed to the parents who put plows into their kids hands, shaking their fists at the tractor driving neighbour.