There’s been a lot of debate around kids’ exposure to screen time. Is it good or bad? How much is too much? What are the long-term effects? There’s also been a great deal of research done in this area and, still, a definitive answer seems to be elusive.

The main issue with current research is that a lot of it depends on self-reporting which is not always the most accurate form of collecting data. The flaw in self conducted research is the lack of context and coming up with a hypothesis for a question which does not present a linear answer.

There are many variables to consider when researching the effects of screen time exposure, such as:

Characteristics of the person – e.g., age, sex, personality variables

Characteristics of the context – e.g., playing a video game alone vs. online with strangers vs. in-person with friends

Format – e.g., tablet, Xbox, smartphone, VR headset

Type of media – e.g., social media, video games, Netflix, blogs, YouTube tutorials

Characteristics of the media – e.g., violent movies and video games, pornography, sexting, high action vs. low action, strategy vs. action

Consuming vs. creating – e.g., watching YouTube videos of people being slimed vs. how to play chess, playing a video game vs. programming/developing a video game

Time/frequency involved – e.g., 2 hours per day vs. 10 hours per day, checking a phone 30 times per day vs. 200 times per day

Timing – e.g., Snapchatting at home while sitting on the couch or while driving down the freeway at 70 m.p.h., a college student texting friends between classes or during class lectures

It’s clear that there’s no simple answer to this debate.

Most experts agree though that when it comes to kids’ screen time exposure the following points are important:

Parental involvement/guidance. It shouldn’t be a singular activity.

For small kids their screen time activity should be interactive and educational.

Screen time shouldn’t come at the expense of other activities. Kids especially learn by interacting with the world around them.

For more information see the guidelines provided by the World Health Organisation.

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