No screen time at all can be an extreme proposition, especially when it comes to digital kids. It may also be counterproductive to learning and acquiring job skills. But some parents have decided that video games are simply bad for their kids and have chosen to ban them from their households. Most often, parents who choose this approach have either seen their children become obsessed by video games or the Internet or are concerned that their child will spend far too much time playing video games and, as a result, have less time for important things such as school, pursuit of hobbies, and involvement in unstructured or imaginative play. This strategy is becoming increasingly more difficult to enforce for many parents and at times may have the unintended consequence of isolating their children from the interests of their peers.
While we strongly agree with the general concept that there are many things children should be doing that are more important than screen time (to learn more about this, see our information on Play Diets), we disagree with this approach for children in the digital world. This is a little like denying books and schools to children in the eighteen and nineteenth centuries because it would take them from their work on the farm, or the belief in the early twentieth century of people who didn’t want to drive in cars because it was unnatural for people to be in mechanical vehicles. Just as books and cars have taken human beings to places they have never been before, video games and other technology offer the same types of opportunities.
Understanding the dangers and possible abuses of video games and digital technologies is important, but the benefits are greater. Just as there are possible dangers from the vaccines to our children, it is important to understand the benefits of eliminating disease. In the same fashion, restricting children who are growing up in the digital world from technology keeps them from some of the tools they will need in school and in their future vocations. We believe there are many effective ways parents can encourage a healthy play diet that focuses on activities such as physical exercise, face-to-face social interactions, and the pursuit of artistic and creative hobbies while allowing them to have an opportunity to have fun and learn from the incredible technologies that are available in today’s world.
We encourage parents to follow their own value system and sensibilities about their approach to children’s digital media use. We also recognize that one method does not meet the needs of every child and that some children will need far more structure and limits than others. A variety of approaches is detailed in our series on “Screen Time: How Much is Too Much”, so we encourage you to find one or make up your own that best fits your child.