Families and Screen Time
“School holidays… a time when exhausted children (and parents) negotiate over ‘screen time’ with sometimes-fierce intensity.” This is how a great new piece of research from the London School of Economics was introduced last month. The research is excellent, well worth a read and is available here: LSE – Screen Time Research
All of us as parents can feel guilty about screen time for our children whilst spending hours ourselves in front of our phones or a screen at work or just relaxing in front of the TV. But we suddenly become all concerned about how much our children should spend in spite of the fact that they grew up with devices everywhere, see adults on them everywhere and it is a part of their lives in a way it never was for their parents when they were children (me particularly!).
So what is the right amount? At the Foundation we have known for years that it’s not about the amount of time that’s important but what they are doing when they are on the devices that’s important. So – we were particularly pleased to read this new research.
What the researchers found was the overwhelming weight of advice for parents was always about managing the amount of time that their child should or should not spend on a device. They argue that this is now misleading and that parents should, instead, be helped to engage with their children rather than police them. They also found that there was way too much focus on the risks rather than the opportunities to ‘learn, connect and create’. Their conclusions were that it is now time to:
• Recognise that media use is no longer an optional extra.
• Move beyond the dominant message that their main responsibility is to limit and control.
• Instead be helped to find opportunities for them and their children to learn, connect and create.
They then went on to provide some excellent recommendations for parents but the key one, for me, was:
You shouldn’t automatically assume your child’s use is problematic. Rather than limiting screen time according to an arbitrary figure, parents should consider context, content and connections by asking:
• Is my child physically healthy and sleeping enough?
• Is my child connecting socially with family and friends (in any form)?
• Is my child engaged with and achieving in school?
• Is my child pursuing interests and hobbies (in any form)?
• Is my child having fun and learning in their use of digital media?
If the answer to the above questions is more or less ‘yes’, then it may be that a parent could consider whether their fears over digital media use are well-founded. If the answer to these questions is more or less ‘no’, then these parents and children may need to look at addressing problematic use.