Stories about: screen time

Ask the Mediatrician: Is it OK for my baby to video chat with his grandparents?

Grandmother doing a Facetime video chat with granddaughter at brunch.

I’d like to video chat with my 3-month-old grandson on my phone. His parents are concerned that the video emitted from the screen will affect his brain development and eyes. Any advice will be helpful! ~ Nana, New York, NY

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Ask the Mediatrician: My 11-year-old is addicted to Minecraft, what should I do?

MinecraftQ: My 11-year-old daughter is addicted to the game Minecraft. During the week it doesn’t seem to be a problem as she is busy with sports and homework. However, during the weekends she has a lot more free time and tends to spend hours playing Minecraft. What would be the amount of time that you recommend she play Minecraft per day?
~ Mind Crack or Minecraft? Burlingame/Hillsborough area, CA

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The 5 pieces of advice I’d give about screens if parents ever asked

McCarthyClaire_201108_047The explosion of tech and screens into the lives of children is outrageously obvious to me as a pediatrician. Besides the fact that most kids and parents seem to be attached to a phone or tablet when I enter the exam room, when I ask questions about how kids spend their days (and nights), screens seem to be part of everything.

You’d think that I’d get questions from parents about screen time and about how best to use devices with their kids. But I don’t. Like, never.

This is weird, because I feel like I get asked about everything else that touches a child or is part of a child’s life. I think I have been asked every possible question about food, sleep, toys, school, after-school activities, playgroups, strollers, summer camps, shoes, coats, soaps, pajamas… I’m not kidding; I get asked about everything.

But not screens. I used to get asked about when kids should get a cell phone, but I don’t even get that question anymore.

I figure that there are three possible reasons. It could be that screens are so commonplace that people don’t think to ask about them. It’s certainly true that they are becoming ubiquitous; currently two-thirds of US adults have a smartphone, a proportion which has nearly doubled since 2011.

Yeah, but shoes are even more ubiquitous and I get questions about those. So maybe not.

It could also be that parents feel like they know everything there is to know and don’t need my advice. I think that’s probably the case for some parents — although given how new some of this technology is, I am impressed with their knowledge.

I think that the most likely reason is that parents are afraid of what I’ll say. They think that I will tell them to turn off all the screens or take the screens away from their kids. And that would be such a drag, right? Because let’s face it, screens are pretty great. Besides the fact that smartphones, tablets, computers and other devices are remarkably useful, they are remarkably entertaining, too. And we all know that happy kids make for happy parents.

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When school is online, how much screen time is too much?

Michael RichMichael Rich, MD, MPH, is Boston Children’s Hospital’s media expert and director of Boston Children’s Center on Media and Child Health. Send him a media-related parenting question via cmch@childrens.harvard.edu and follow him on Twitter @CMCH_Boston.

Q: I teach for an online school that serves students in 4th through 12th grades. All of our lesson content is web-based, and the school would like to add three hours of synchronous lesson delivery four days a week. I believe that the school is trying to satisfy the parent desire for face-to-face contact between students and teachers—in this scenario, students can ask questions in real time and get their answers right away. Personally, I think that it is too much screen time for the students. All of the data I see indicates that screen-time does not count when it is for educational purposes, but that does not seem quite right to me. What are your thoughts on online education and how much time a student in an online school should spend using screens?

Skeptical about Screen Time, in Alberta, Canada

A: Dear Skeptical,

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