It’s a new year. The eggnog is empty. School has rebooted. The piles of gift wrapping and ubiquitous Amazon boxes are stacked by the street. Wait. Is today recycle day or was that last week?
But not everything is back to normal. I’m sure Santa left you with new technology and the hefty responsibility of figuring out how to manage screen time for your littles.
Don’t panic. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)have revised their views about screen time. More about that in a moment. First, a little trip down memory lane.
It seems that history is rife with challenges when it comes to adopting new technology. According to cultural anthropologistGenevieve Bell, a member of the Women in TechnologyInternational Hall of Fame, it’s not out of the norm for society to get panicked when new technology emerges.
Bell says this “moral panic” is often aimed at women and children. When trains were the technological innovation dujour, for instance, Bell reminds us that the reaction among themoral panic police was fear that women’s bodies weren’t robust enough to travel over 50 mph. Ha! My wife clearly didn’t get that memo! She’s the driver of our family, and I can report that she routinely goes over 50 mph. And my body seems to be the only one that’s falling apart in our family.
So, technology and history have a love/hate relationship—and women and children get to go first. Ouch.
Whether it was trains, radio, TV or the Internet, there have always been knee jerk reactions by the “experts” trying to protect the rest of us from ourselves. Not surprisingly, when the smart phone revolution began almost 10 years ago, there were emerging concerns and ultimately pediatric standards that promoted a ban on screens for children under 24 months.
Back in 2011, a Time Magazine article reported on a study that found just nine minutes of Sponge Bob Square Pants “significantly impaired” children’s executive function. I have to admit that my own executive function is impaired after only three minutes of “under the sea” soliloquies.
So, there’s been a lot of angst over these sometimes terrifying reports. But, just as we’ve allowed women to go over 50 mph, we’re realizing that our children’s brains aren’t going to quit working if they FaceTime their grandparents.
New evidence says the old standards might have been long on worries and short on science.
So back to the AAP. In October, the group allowed new parents to breathe a sigh of relief. Newly revised standards have tried to create a more nuanced and balanced approach to guiding healthily adjusted, rootin’ tootin’, screen totin’ toddlers. The new standards suggest that children as young as 18 months can have a healthy interaction with the screen-infused world.
What hasn’t changed, from the dawn of civilization until now, is common sense parenting. No child should be left alone. Children need healthy boundaries and attentive supervision.
HealthyChildren.org also has an excellent online tool for creating a media use plan. It is well done and provides an excellent way to come face-to-face with just how much time we have our lives buried in a screen.
As you launch your new year, take control of your time. It’s so precious, and you’ll never look back and wish that you had less time with your family and more time attached to a screen.
Don’t beat yourself up about allowing children opportunities to explore the world of technology, but be creative and exercise common sense. Maybe even go for a drive together and take in a beautiful winter day…but mind your speed, you don’t want to melt!
Richard Singleton, MACE, MAMFC, LPC, is the executive director at STARRY in Round Rock