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Reblogged:Screen Time: Not Inherently Bad for Kids

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At Let Grow, Tracy Tomasso urges parents to stop flagellating themselves and shaming others for letting their kids have "screen time."

Image by Annie Spratt, via Unsplash, license.
Broadly dismissing kids' screen time as "bad" fails to recognize the utility these devices have become and the acceptable offline pastimes they've replaced. We wouldn't think to demand our children spend less time reading, or looking at photo albums, or finding out what frogs eat. Rather than condemning screens outright, we ought to be having a more nuanced dialogue. Let's look at the things our children are doing with them... [bold added]

Back in Baltimore, my wife worked long hours (especially when she was on call) and had a long commute. I had little choice but to lean harder on screen devices than I really wanted to. But I never became too worried about it. For one thing, I noticed that the kids didn't just passively stare at them forever: They'd get bored or interested in something else eventually. For another, I noticed they'd learn things from them. Many kids' shows are educational, and I'd hear my vocal son shouting out answers all the time, back then. (And no, I wasn't telling him what to watch or do.)

In fact, that continues now. For a recent example out of many: My son was listening to a simplified explanation of DNA on YouTube the other day. (He searches for and learns about things he's curious about this way all the time.) In fact, my main "worry" with him is of having my thunder stolen, as happened during our recent visit with my in-laws, who have a place on a beach.

A prop plane flew overhead, reminding me of the Wright Brothers, so I pointed it out to my son as an example of what most planes used to be like. Then, I attempted to tell him about the Wright Brothers, and how people would laugh at them because they thought the idea that heavier-than-air machines could fly was stupid.

"I already know about that," he said.

"Really? How?"

I watched a show about them on YouTube.

For a brief instant, I felt wistful, but that quickly passed, and I smiled a little at the thought: It's really neat that my son is so curious and is learning about things like this on his own.

Sure, he watches his share of what I might dismiss as junk, but I see many of the lessons of Steven Johnson's Wonderland here: Play and the pursuit of delight are crucially important to human development (and on many scales at that). Most people would cheer the educational content, but I wouldn't stop there. I think that includes some of the "junk:" I often see him honing his aesthetic judgement and his sense of humor with some of that.

I sure am glad we had these devices when I was alone most evenings with my very young children, and I'm glad we have them now.

Dare I say it? Screen time can actually be good for children.

-- CAV

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