What recommendations should we be giving parents and youth when it comes to screen time? In past limiting some types of screen time made sense. A time when the American Pediatric Association (AAP) made long-standing screen time limits recommendations. However, those were based on research around passive television viewing and violent video games.
Since then the AAP has backtracked.
In 2015 Dimitri Christakis, AAP Council on Communication and Media member, revealed new information about the recommendations. He confessed to the research that lead to the recommendations was conducted before anyone knew the iPad, or similar interactive screen devices, existed. He says that since screens are now more than just devices to passively intake information, he has a different view. He explains that today, screens “can be used to read books to children, and high-quality apps are similar to toys. Therefore, the AAP needs to consider how these devices are used instead of discouraging their use across the board. We don't want to risk appearing so out of touch that we're irrelevant and people won't take our advice seriously."
A year later, the AAP updated their views saying that families are better off doing away with hard-and-fast restrictions on screen time. Instead, their should be joint media engagement and/or awareness, guidance, and conversations about healthy, productive, and/or educational screen use.
In his book "The New Childhood," agrees. He lays out clear recommendations on healthy and productive ways adults can spend more screen time with young people to successfully prepare them for the digital world in which they live.
The other important point to remember is the usefulness of screens beyond just learning.
Yes. Screens are our books. They let us publish books. The allow us to code and create for authentic audiences. They enable our math to become visual so we can better understand how to solve equations. Screens enable us to communicate and collaborate across geographic boundaries. We can interact and engage in powerful ways never before possible.
But, that’s just the start.
Assisting those with disabilities
The percentage of the population with disabilities at any given time stands around 15 - 20%. For many of us able-bodied, this is only a temporary state. A large percentage of the population will experience disability at some point in their lives. It may be a broken bone that puts us in crutches or a cast on our hand. We may experience vision or hearing loss because of a medical condition. We may have cognitive impairment as we age or because of an aneurysm. We may have an undiagnosed learning condition like dysgraphia or Aspergers. Whether it is ourselves, a friend, a child, parent, or other family member, we all have or no someone who may have abilities that are impaired.
Fortunately, today technology can help powerfully with all of these conditions.
That means we must think differently about screen time.
Unfortunately, there is no acknowledgement with the AAP about the value of screens to support those with disabilities. The organization sees the world as things you do on screens and things you do without screens. It fails to recognize the ways screens are being integrated into the lives of so many.
Let’s take a look at a few examples.
Screens give a voice and unleashe the thoughts of Dillan and Meera
Screens become the eyes of Patrick.
Screens give sound to Shane.
Screens provide mobility for Todd.
Screens are also helping those with invisible disabilities. Like Immersive Reader (opens in new tab) and speech to text for those with dyslexia or other literacy issues. There are accessibility features for those who are color blind, or those prone to seizures. Translation technology now can take words in an image turn them to text, translate them and read aloud.
Even those without a named disability, often find that screen technology unleashes their ability to learn or create in new ways.
Screens are a lifeline and learning line in ways we may never have realized possible in the past.
When the conversations of screen time come up, the answer must always be,there is not one answer. It depends on the individual. What they’re doing matters. The abilities they wish to access and how they wish to do so matters too.
Instead of talking about screen time, we can switch our conversation to what a healthy media diet looks like for each individual. For more help with that, Common Sense Education has an entire media balance toolbox to guide you.
Lisa Nielsen (opens in new tab) (@InnovativeEdu (opens in new tab)) has worked as a public-school educator and administrator since 1997. She is a prolific writer best known for her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator (opens in new tab). Nielsen is the author of several books (opens in new tab)and her writing has been featured in media outlets such as The New York Times (opens in new tab),The Wall Street Journal (opens in new tab), Tech&Learning, and T.H.E. Journal (opens in new tab).