The Screen Time Debate
Much has been made lately about limiting children's screen time (time spent watching television or playing on the computer). The conventional wisdom being "the less time, the better", but is this really the case?
Guernsey tells us that we can not just focus on the amount of time spent in front of the screen, but on what she and other researchers refer to as the three C's; content, context and the individual child.
The context—what is happening around the child while viewing, as well as the extent to which screen time dominates a child's daily routine also makes a difference. Guernsey urges us to remember that every child comes to media or technology with their own needs and interests and that these can either be nurtured or crushed, depending on how the media is used.
Guernsey believes there are many questions that need answering before any blanket statements on how much screen time is optimal can be answered. Among the questions she urges researchers to examine are:
Guernsey believes research on technology and screen media should be modeled after nutritional research by looking at subgroups of populations, particular types of content and the interplay of family dynamics, among other things. She feels the federal government should be helping to fund large longitudinal studies, and that scientists independent of industry should build and expand interdisciplinary studies and experiments that examine short and long-term effects of different media under multiple conditions with different types of populations.
The research on adult-child interactions shows that children learn how to communicate and, in the long run, how to read, by engaging with "social partners"—people engage them in back and forth conversations. Moments of "joint attention" around a particular object help too.
As a care giver, remember the three C's. Look for age-appropriate and high-quality content (a visit to the ParentsChoice.org website will provide lists of great books, games, toys and music). Imagine the context in which it will be used and be prepared to set some rules or parameters on how much or when. And think about what the individual child is inspired by and might want to learn more about.