Week 2 Discussion Question

Children & Mass Media

As you’ve seen in the readings for this week, the amount of screen time to which young children are exposed is one of the most hotly debated issues in the field. Based on what you’ve read and what you personally experienced growing up, where do you come out on the issue of limiting screen time? Should there be blanket recommendations? Is there a difference between “passive screen time” (like watching videos, tv or movies) and so-called “active screen time” (video games, etc.)?

It seems like large amounts of screen time do have negative effects on children, since it’s such a compelling activity that it takes away from other developmentally beneficial activities they could be doing (interacting with other children, interacting with their parents, exploring the world).

Blanket recommendations probably aren’t the right thing either, because it depends on what the child is doing with their screen time. It seems like constructive activities, like learning or communicating with friends, help children get the best things out of their screen time. Whereas watching videos or TV has more potential to be disruptive to their development (to varying degrees as well, depending on what they’re watching).

Blanket recommendations also don’t take into account the circumstances of the world: during Covid lockdowns, many children’s main interaction with their friends was through video games or messaging. In situations such as these, where the alternatives are restricted but we still want them to socialize in some way, limits on screen time should probably be raised substantially.

However, in any of these situations, it’s tough to tell the child that what they’re doing with their screen time is unconstructive — nobody likes to hear that they’re wasting their time. Perhaps it’s more important for parents to model healthy relationships with their own screen time, and behavior that they’d like their children to exhibit, so that children shift in a healthier direction rather than just being told that they need to change.