A new report says there's not as much evidence of physical harm as you might think.
- Leading pediatricians say the assumption that screen time is behind problems is not really supported by research.
- The danger has more to do with a screen being a gateway for unwanted intrusions into a child's life.
- While recommendations are difficult based on the limited amount of research that has been done, the report offers a few.
How many hours are we talking about?<p>Children and young adults find themselves in front of screens all day. Between computers at school, computers they use for homework, phones, and TV, it's pretty relentless. According to the study, the average person in the group they studied — 109 UK respondents from ages 11 to 24 — spends 7.5 hours a day basking in the cold glow of a device.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTA4OTU1Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwMzcwMjEwOX0.EZSwOpjYlXMOPZmQ4cSd9GM00j5BW6ra34BR36l8fes/img.jpg?width=980" id="28b4c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a1435af26a9a61272951c75b219b37f8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Correlation or causality?<p>Earlier research examined for the report finds correlations between more than two hours of screen time and poor diet, and a negative effect on mental health, with an increased likelihood of depression. There's also some hint of a connection to reduced educational outcomes and sleep and fitness, though the authors describe this as "weak." The study's respondents had their own views of the cost.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTA4OTU3MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxOTQ1MjkxOH0.9RsKp84cpeyqFvCjgpreBQDfDr70WKHv8p1BIizISLg/img.jpg?width=980" id="43c34" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="18f6494d38cff576c38525a4ae52b0be" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
So is there a connection?<p>The report says that presented with <em>some</em> kind of connection, there are four possible interpretations. Quoting the report:</p> <ol> <li>Screen time is directly "toxic" to health. This view is popular outside the scientific literature, but has essentially no evidence to support it.</li> <li>Screen time alters behavior and thus leads to negative outcomes. There is some evidence for this when it comes to diet: Watching screens can distract children from feeling full, and this may be contributing towards increased energy intake mentioned above. Also, children are often exposed to advertising while using screens, which appears to lead to higher intake of unhealthy foods.</li> <li>Screen use exposes children and young people to harmful content, through cyberbullying, watching violence or pornography, unrealistic imagery (unrealistic body shapes) or through monitoring online status (e.g. likes) with their peers.</li> <li>Screen time displaces positive activities. Analysis of what leads to positive well-being has consistently supported socializing, good sleep, diet and exercise as positive influences. All of these can be displaced by screen-based activities, which may lead to an "opportunity cost" in terms of other beneficial activities. For this reason we feel that this is the main way in which screen time and negative outcomes may be linked.</li> </ol> <p>With the immediate discarding of Item 1, we step away from there being some physical damage being done by screens themselves.</p><p>With #2 describing the unhealthy ways in which screen time can distract from important sensations such as a need to eat, it should be mentioned that this also has a positive upside: Screen viewing can also distract a person from not being <em>able</em> to eat for lack of food, and it can provide sometimes-necessary emotional escape from difficult circumstances.</p><p>The third possibility is the most frightening to parents: The intrusion of bad actors in their child's life. Cyberbullies can devastate a young spirit, while social sites publish status rankings, host influencers who can damage a young person's self-image, and others deliver content of which parents disapprove.</p><p>The damage inflicted in the fourth scenario is simple: If one spends all of one's time onscreen, there's no time left for other activities. This is not unique to screen time, though. Any overwhelming area of interest can eat up too much time for doing other things.</p>
What the report recommends<p>As we wait for further, more granular, research and clearer answers on this issue, the RCPCH advises beginning with a calm family discussion in which four questions are considered:</p> <ol> <li>Is screen time in your household controlled?</li> <li>Does screen use interfere with what your family want to do?</li> <li>Does screen use interfere with sleep?</li> <li>Are you able to control snacking during screen time?</li> </ol> <p>In addition, it suggests parents pay attention to the behavior they model via their own screen usage, remembering to: </p> <ul> <li>Have a plan and stick to it.</li> <li>Be aware, but not intrusive or judgmental.</li> <li>Think about your own media use.</li> <li>Prioritize face-to-face interaction.</li> <li>Be snack aware.</li> <li>Protect sleep.</li> </ul> <p>The young people questioned by RCPCH have their own simple suggestions.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTA4OTYwNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMzE3NzMzOH0.OQQ9J571QckI2eNR81dmWNFPlV1H3Px7aIynBBQ3QFg/img.jpg?width=980" id="c04e8" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="99f8cc5a70074ba5e2968664615c821e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Should kids be on social media? If yes, what are some good rules to have?
Should kids be on social media? The kneejerk reaction, for some parents, is to control what they do. But journalist Virginia Heffernan thinks that how children and teenagers use social media is how we all use social media — we're just too proud to admit it. Those of us that use social media inevitably are painting an avatar of personality online, testing what works and what doesn't, and through fine-tuning our own selves in the process. It is absolutely true that you can fall victim to narcissism if you follow the "like" economy to its fullest, but a healthy attitude towards social media can lead to some old-fashioned self-exploration that many older folks may have forgotten about. Because young people know... perhaps more than adults... that you have to try on a lot of metaphorical hats before you find the one that fits. Virginia Heffernan's latest book is Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art.
Being bored is great. It's where we come up with our best ideas, and how we become better people by being able to mentally solve our biggest personal problems. So why are we destroying boredom with our phones?
Are cell phones destroying creativity? Podcast host, author, and relentless examiner of the modern human condition Manoush Zomorodi believes that they are. When we are bored, the brain enters what is called "default mode"—think about the way your mind wanders when you're in the shower or doing the dishes. This might not seem like valuable time but our creativity really kicks into high gear. We now use up a lot of that boredom-time by poking at our phones, and in doing so are starving ourselves of a main source of inspiration. This boredom issue goes beyond simple creativity: boredom is also useful for autobiographical planning and being able to solve big problems. Manoush posits that maybe we should put down the phones and start being bored more often. Her latest book is Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self .