It’s a hot debate, and one that is fiercely contested across the spectrum of parents and teachers. But how much screen time is enough? We asked Jocelyn Brewer, child psychologist and founder of cyber psychology consultancy Digital Nutrition what she thought about kids and screen time. Jocelyn spends much of her time working with parents and teachers to help them understand the research on the impacts of screentime, and she likens it to the digital equivalent to the food pyramid - when the inputs to your child are in balance, then screen time is a healthy part of that mix. Jocelyn isn’t a fan of prohibition, instead suggests an open and healthy dialogue with families about screen use.
“Responding calmly and judiciously, taking time to understand the complexities of the research around kids and tech (like the fact there is no magic number when it comes to screen time) and putting aside media sensationalism around iGen and its associated alternative facts is the kind of response young people need. Prohibition shows little true leadership at a time when young people really need us to step up with authentic responses that show we are listening and we get them.”
Screens and digital interaction aren’t going away, and as adults we know that they are integral part of our lives, so it makes sense that we want to help children to use them wisely - which means we have to be exemplars ourselves. Jocelyn agrees saying “Adults could do with checking in on their own digital habits and the way they’re role modelling technology use. Imitation and mimicry are powerful learning mechanisms picked up by even the smallest humans. Kids can’t see the difference between Mum using her phone to keep up with work emails or ordering groceries online from playing CandyCrush or scrolling through #inspoquotes on Instagram.”
The reality is that kids like playing using a combination of digital and IRL situations. When you can integrate play, and outdoors and leaning together, the impacts of each are amplified rather than diminished. What does your families digital health look like - make a fun table of all your online and offline activities and see if it is in balance or needs a little tweaking!