Should Your Child Have More Screen Time? A New Book Says Yes.
Should your kids have more screen time? A new book from a senior fellow for the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, Jordan Shapiro, says yes – as long as they are spending that screen time with their parents.
In his book, The New Childhood: Raising Kids to Thrive in a Connected World, and in an interview with National Public Radio, Shapiro argues that parents should throw screen time rules out the window and instead spend more time on screens with their children, doing things like playing video games and helping them make sense of the digital world they inhabit.
According to Shapiro, instead of creating strict rules around screen time, parents should instead teach children when it's okay to use screens and when it's not. As an example, he says that many families are very strict when it comes to device-free dinners. But at his house, it's permissible to ask Google a question or pull up a YouTube video if it's relevant to the discussion they are having a dinner time. When parents approach screen time flexibly, they are teaching children how to exist in a digital world without them so they know that on a date they should not be watching YouTube while their partner eats, but they can pull out their phone to show them something interesting related to what they might be talking about.
Another example Shapiro gives as to why it's important to have screen time with your kids is an opportunity to discuss weighty issues in a way they will understand. For example, by playing video games with your kids you may have an opportunity to discuss violence with them and make the distinction that while violence in the real world is not okay, violence in video games may be. Distinctions like this may not be apparent to a child unless an adult raises the subject with them in a way that is relevant to them.
Shapiro is not alone in his approach. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends a joint screen time approach. Under this approach, screens should not be used as a babysitter. Parents and other caregivers should be actively involved in their child's screen time to help them figure out what is appropriate and what is not.
Shapiro uses the example of very popular YouTube videos of kids opening toys. Instead of leaving kids to their own devices and just encouraging consumerism, Shapiro advises parents to encourage their children to think about the “why” of the videos. Who paid for them? What are they trying to sell? This helps children become critical thinkers later in life.
He also thinks that children should start on social media earlier when they are more open to parents being involved, such as by participating in a small social media network of just family, a church group, a sports team, etc. When children start young and in a controlled environment parents can easily keep track of what is being posted and open discussions about when a picture should not have been shared or when a comment may cross the line from being funny to being mean.
Do you engage in screen time with your child? Let us know.