The adverse effects of hour-long exposure to smartphone and tablet screens are known to many and the general consensus among parents and guardians has been to cut down the amount of time their children spent on screened gadgets. But some experts look at that discipline now as outdated, thus calling for change.
Researchers at the University of St.Thomas in St.Paul, Minnesota say children's activities on the screen make a huge difference, urging parents to look at the difference between passive and active time on screen.
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"One way to sum up the new way of thinking is to differentiate between "passive" screen time, such as viewing videos, and "active" time, including creative pursuits but also (parent-approved) videogames," says AnnMarie Thomas, director of the university's Playful Learning Lab, in an interview with WSJ.
According to Thomas, limiting screen time could be the old form of limiting passive time. The same principle has been acknowledged by the American Academy of Pediatrics (APP), which has been a champion of the idea of putting the emphasis on what children are doing with their screens, rather than the amount of time spent on them.
Anya Kamenetz, the author of an upcoming book called The Art of Screen Time--How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media and Real Life, echoes the AAP.
"Instead of enforcing time-based rules, parents should help children determine what they want to do—consume and create art, marvel at the universe—and make it a daily part of screen life."
In December 2017, a joint study between the Oxford Internet Institute and Cardiff University published in the journal Child Development stresses, that there is "no consistent correlation" between limiting screen time and children's well-being.
"Our findings suggest the broader family context, how parents set rules about digital screen time, and if they're actively engaged in exploring the digital world together, are more important than the raw screen time," reads the report.
Even so, all are reminding parents and guardians that these findings should not mean they can be complacent about screen time. Other issues affecting their children may arise in the course of time, including physical inactivity, online bullying and mental health issues, among others.