The coming of the iPhone and its equally disruptive partner, the iPad, ushered in the era of “too much screen time” fear mongering. My wife and I raised two kids through this era and we too harbored the fears and worries that are expressed in the multiple-signatory editorial Screen-based lifestyle harms children’s health. We would watch with worried faces as our children’s faces glowed with digital screen illumination while trying to limit their exposure to “harm”.

In this editorial published December 2016 in The Guardian, the authors outline the cognitive pitfalls associated with exposing our children to “too much screen time” and implicated that in the recent increase in cases of childhood obesity, declining youth mental health, and poor development of emotional resilience and self-regulation ( Palmer, S., et. al. 2016). It is suggested that this is all caused by reduced outdoor play and a reliance on technology to think for us.

Prior to starting my MALAT course, I too would have been of the same mind, echoing their claims and in so doing perpetuate the idea that all screen time is bad and offers only detrimental effects to a developing mind; all the while using the ubiquitous claim of “they say” with out actually considering who “they” are, or what the basis was for their claims.

Now, 6 months into my learning about the positive uses of technology and by association “screen time” I no longer prescribe to the above-mentioned views. I found myself agreeing with the opinions expressed in the rebuttal editorial, Screen time guidelines need to be built on evidence, not hype published in the January 2017 issue of The Guardian.

In this editorial the author expresses a need for further study on and a definition of what “screen time” really is and identifying the importance of drawing a distinction between the content and context of “screen time” as not all screen time is the same. The content and context of the exposure could quite likely have a greater role in the positive or negative effect of the screen-based activity ( Etchells, P., et. al. 2017) and should be given careful consideration.

It has been my experience that the benefits of today’s technology and its associated time spent looking at a screen has benefits that are greater than the potential pitfalls. Managing quantity and quality along with an adherence to appropriate hours of use would bring with it many opportunities for growth and development. As such to paint all screen time as deleterious to one’s health would be short sighted and potentially be doing a disservice to society.

What do you think? Is all “screen time bad”? Is it all the same regardless of how it is being used?

As is so often the case in these kinds of debates, only time will tell …………..

 


References

Etchells, P., et al. (January 6, 2017). Screen Time Guidelines should be built on evidence, not hypeThe Guardian.

Palmer, S., et. al. (December 25, 2016). Screen-based lifestyle harms children’s health. The Guardian.