Banning Tablets Is Best for Children
(Editor’s note: By now most all grandparents are concerned about the obsession our grandkids have with their digital devices, from smartphones and iPads and laptops to all the digital “toys” and gizmos being marketed just for them as well. Yes, we know the digital world is here now and even more for the future, but it does seem overwhelming when we don’t know the real effect and long-term consequences all this time on digital devices has on little developing brains. I for one, am trying to read everything I can on the topic which is why I’ve reposted a portion of this highly informative piece from The Wall Street Journal.)
The latest guidelines recommend just one hour of screen time a day of ‘high-quality programming’
By CHRISTOPHER MIMS
A funny thing happened when I banned tablets in my house on weekdays and curtailed their use on weekends. My children, ages 6 and 4, became less cantankerous. They also became happier, more responsive, and engaged in more imaginative play. They rediscovered their toys. Outside the home, they became less demanding and better at self-regulating.
Friday, the American Academy of Pediatrics validated my experiment, recommending that children younger than 18 months get zero screen time, and those ages 2 to 5 be limited to one hour a day—half of its prior recommendation. The group recommended that the hour be “high-quality programming” that parents watch with their children.
The academy doesn’t set limits for older children, but suggests curtailing screen time before bedtime and when it conflicts with healthy activities.
How can you make sure your children follow the screen-time rules when they are away from home?
The hands of children are a big business. Time spent in apps from the “family” category on the Google Play store doubled in the past year, according to app-tracker App Annie. Children ages 2 to 11 watch an average of 4 ½ hours a day of recorded programming. And more than 50% of Netflix Inc. accounts worldwide watch some form of children’s content, a spokeswoman says.
We have been conducting a social experiment on our children since the arrival of the smartphone a decade ago and the tablet soon after. A rich library links too much television for children’s ill effects ranging from obesity to attention disorders. But there are few studies examining children using tablets and smartphones.
Tech giants are working on conversation-based systems that could bring profound changes in how we interact with computers, writes Keywords columnist Christopher Mims. Amazon has found that people talk to its voice-controlled Echo speaker as if it’s a person.
Most parents haven’t been listening. Mobile devices—tablets, smartphones, and the like—in the hands of children are a big business.
Such research is “in its infancy,” says Dr. Dimitri Christakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Hospital and a co-author of the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines. But we know that screens’ effects on young children depend on what they are looking at and how they are used.
For those who, like me, often resort to screens to distract children long enough to get dinner ready or siblings dressed, the news isn’t good: As with television, too much passive consumption is detrimental.
To make such time more enriching, Dr. Christakis said an adult should watch and collaborate with children. Experts call this “structured joint attention.”
“Passive media just reduces those opportunities for joint attention,” says Dr. Christakis. Every hour of entertainment programming a child watches in the first three years of life increases his odds of exhibiting attention issues at school at age 7 by 10%, according to Dr. Christakis’s research.
The calculus changes when the content is educational, however, says Dr. Christakis. ActorLeVar Burton, who was executive producer of the children’s series “Reading Rainbow,” last year launched a tablet-based children’s app called Skybrary to capitalize on this. “I always say, all media is educational. The question is, what are we teaching?” Mr. Burton said.