May 9, 2018 – Don’t panic, screen time can be good for kids
I write these words with a depressingly familiar feeling of guilt washing over me. To get them written, you see, I have employed a digital babysitter to distract my two children: that’s right, they are currently spending their Easter break playing on my iPad.
Given the news this week that infant pupils are increasingly attempting to ‘swipe’ the pages of their school books, as they have become so accustomed to doing with their devices, and that according to Ofcom, tablet ownership among 8-to-11 year old children has risen from two per cent in 2011 to 52 per cent in 2017, alarm bells should, I know, be deafening.
Yet a wave of new research is now challenging the long-held orthodoxy that screen-time is bad for children: some, it suggests, might even benefit them.
According to Parenting for a Digital Future, a report from the London School of Economics published last month, consuming digital media does not always lead to children consigning themselves to their bedrooms with just their screens for company. In fact, they can often help to bring families together, as parents watch films, play video games and use messaging apps with their children.
“We found that parental concern about placing limits on ‘screen-time’ was far higher than concern about the nature of the content their kids were engaging with,” explains Dr Alicia Blum-Ross, the paper’s co-author. “Instead of worrying about a set time-limit, I’d encourage parents to think: are they learning? Is it helping them engage with their world?”
Her view reflects the beginnings of wider change. In 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics amended its guidance on children’s exposure to screens, abandoning its previous recommendation that children under two should be kept away from them entirely.
What is most important, said Jenny Radesky, lead author of the policy report, “is that parents be their child’s ‘media mentor.’ That means teaching them how to use it as a tool to create, connect and learn.”
There is a difference, in other words, between what happens inside your child’s mind while she watches YouTube videos and when she is learning about phonics via an app. For children over two, there is cheering news: studies suggest that their more developed minds can infer all sorts of knowledge about the real world from on-screen activities, whether that is maths and literacy or social skills and behaviour.
To read more of this article, originally published in The Telegraph, please click on the title link.