How to protect kids from screen addiction

A real challenge for most parents is how to manage their child’s relationship with the digital world. According to a 2018 US survey, parents are most concerned about the excessive use of digital devices.

As of today, we still have relatively little knowledge about the kind of adults the children who grow up in front of screen will become. As most parents are not familiar with even the most basic literature, they are most likely to concentrate on the most problematic consequences of exaggerated screen time, and their opinions are often shaped on fear-inducing books and TED talks instead of scientific literature.

Whether you are a teacher or a parent you must have heard that…

… “recently the matter of whether or not to have a child sit in front of a screen is no longer debated, the question is now when.

Currently there is no universal scientific position on this issue. We might use our own childhood experience as a guideline and think back to how old we were when we started watching TV.  Let’s listen to our common sense and strive for moderation.

 … “YouTube is turning my child into a screen addict.

YouTube’s unlimited content can often lead to children developing bad habits: they often don’t wait for the end of the story, but immediately move on to another one. Let’s be proactive: choose the paid, ad-free version of YouTube and create a playlist with your child that they can select from.

… “reading on a tablet takes time away from books.

Interactive books on a tablet and other interactive content are complementary, but aren’t substitutes for traditional paper-based books! We all aim for our children to read, so if they spend their screen time reading on a tablet, then let them. The point is for them to immerse themselves in a story and enjoy the world of books. A person who loves to read is platform indifferent, they do not choose between paper and screens, all they care about is reading, reading and more reading.

The solution: connected parenting

In the area of digital technology and education, it’s worth mentioning Mimi Itó, who is the leading researcher at the Connected Learning Lab of California’s Irvine University.

“Parents who have access to technology should be less concerned with their children’s use of devices. Let’s focus more on how we can connect to our kids’ digital lives”

– she says.

According to Itó, it is great that the American Pediatric Association (AAP) has rejected the famous 2 × 2 rule. (The rule was that no screen time was allowed for toddlers under 2, and even up to the age of 18, the recommended time was a maximum of 2 hours.) This rule acts to blame and stigmatize parents, rather than bringing them closer to the practice of “connected parenting”. In this context, the word “connected” refers to the connection of a child’s digital interests and world.

A good example of connected parenting is when parents watch cartoons together with their children. Together they sing a song (for example the well-known Shark Song found in the BOOKR Class) and the child performs the new dance they learned in kindergarten or on the playground. Connected parenting is also accomplished through a family watching a story together from BOOKR Class and then solving the related exercises. Friends and relatives living abroad who are involved in the family’s life can also be part of this ritual over Facetime, for example. Laughing and playing together, even through a screen, has the power to blur geographical lines.