Episode 86

Kids and Media Consumption 101 - Let’s Start with the Science


March 21st, 2019

57 mins 3 secs

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About this Episode

In this episode, we’re talking about kids and media consumption - what does science say about screen time? How do we sort out the fear mongering from the useful data? What are our own practices in the Camacho household, and what might we want to change?

Leslie introduces the topic with some thoughts on the balance of screen time and other activities. We talk about how we want our kids to enjoy a wide variety of activities without relying on digital media to keep themselves entertained.

Laura presents her thoughts on the research on screen time. The data is inconclusive. While scientists have made some observations in some populations, even those are not consistent across all populations. Laura rants about the tons of junk "science" reports acting like correlation is causation, and villifying screen time as the source of all evil and unhappiness in the world. The bottom line is, this is a new area of research and it's going to take probably another decade to be able to make any conclusive statements.

The only evidence that shocked Laura was that across many studies, kids are apparently averaging around 6-8 hours of entertainment (not including in-school or homework-related) screentime per day. The Camacho household limits kids to 2 hours of screen-based entertainment on most days, so this left us feeling like maybe our concerns about how much time our kids are on screens are misplaced!

If you read nothing else on the subject of screentime, this NPR interview with Jordan Shapiro, a Temple University professor whose background is in philosophy and psychology, is golden. Shapiro's guiding principle of parenting in the digital age is engagement and relationship.

Laura loved this because it goes back to the basics of episode 80: the most important indicator of raising successful adults is parents who created a warm, trusting, emotionally-connected/involved relationship with their kids. We need to do this for our kids within the digital world.

We have to engage digital content alongside our kids, and teach them when they are very young how to be discerning of the content they consume, compassionate in their treatment of the people hidden by their avatars, etc.

Leslie takes a turn ranting about privacy issues, brain hacking, and the general evilness of Big Tech - knowledge from which we should not shelter our kids.

We circle back to a sense of optimism: This isn't as fraught as it seems; we just have to be realistic about our situation. We have entered the digital age, we are parents of the digital age, and our parenting is going to have to evolve if it’s going to be effective. Ironically, that evolution only needs to widen the same basic principles of good parenting (connection, trust, conversation) to include the digital world.

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