Screen time is defined as any time someone (usually children) spends in front of a screen (television, computer, iPad, phone).

As a parent it can sometimes be hard to know what to do with our children and screen time. There are so many opinions out there, no screen time for children under 12; one hour of screen time for every five hours of something else; 30 minutes a day; an hour a day; no television; no computers; no iPads. There are charts, table, infographics and websites with suggested screen time for various ages. Add to this the fact students are subject to screen time during the school day.

Just typing “screen time and children” in Google I got 106 million hits in less than half a second. It seems like everyone has an opinion on what is best for children when it comes to screen time. Most of these opinions are that screen time is bad for children.

I think when it comes to screen time and children we need some balance to the arguments. I am all about children playing outside, reading books, talking, building, drawing and doing all the things kids do. I am also aware of the growing body of evidence that devices and technology are beneficial to children and their learning.

Some very well regarded publications have more balanced perspectives including Common Sense Media, New Scientist, Quartz and the Atlantic. Their main point is that not all screen time is equal. You cannot compare passively watching a television program with playing an active Wii game of Just Dance with a parent or even with creating their own movie or television series with their siblings. Nor can you compare playing a violent video game in a bedroom alone with a Skype phone call with grandparents on the other side of the world. Similarly reading an interactive book, drawing a picture, making a movie or playing a jigsaw puzzle on the iPad with a sibling (talking and discussing as they do it together) is very different to giving a child an iPhone in a restaurant to keep them quiet.

It is the parent’s responsibility to choose what is appropriate screen time and what games, shows and apps their children use. My children (2 years and 4 years) watch some TV, they play on the iPad (usually with mum or dad or with each other) making pictures, playing games, reading stories or even creating movies. They also spend a lot of time building, playing outside and creating with toys and Lego. As my Grandmother used to say, it is all about balance.

This was inspired by this excellent blog post on the matter:

http://bit.ly/screen-time

Geoff Derry,
Technology Integration Teacher

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