I have started saying, “Oh, my kids aren’t allowed to look at screens.”

“Yes, it’s awkward, but accompanied with a friendly smile, this simple request takes care of the matter. And it sends a message. Screen-free and low-tech parents do exist, and their beliefs deserve respect.” - Intellectual Takeout


I don’t know what research has been done on this, but there’s something to it. If I had the opportunity for a do-over as a parent, I’d make a serious effort to keep the kids away from screens—large or small—until maybe age 9 or 10.

My reasoning is a bit different from the article above, though. It has to do with cognitive development. What I’ve observed is that some kids (but more than a few) once they’ve seen video or film, never seriously consider the written word as a primary source of information ever again. They may tolerate reading, but would always rather watch video. Others are not affected this way… Maybe it’s not really a problem of early exposure, but how their brains are wired to begin with. Like I said… would like to see the research.

The second factor, also connected to cognitive development, is a matter of attention span development. Video makes attention effortless… and for some kids this is a toxic experience because they need all the help they can get discovering the value of concentration skills and information-patience.

(There is a link to some research in the article: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/article-abstract/2722666)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

….is whether the problem is too much screen time, or too little time spent in other areas. To draw a picture, parents are worried about the internet now, and were worried about television in the 1960s through 1980s, were worried about radio and comic books from the 1930s to the 1950s, and prior to then, you had kids’ fiction and playing hooky to interfere with brain development. (or, given that a very famous hooky-player was Mark Twain, maybe it helped? who knows?)

So while there are some things I can say fairly confidently—for example, it appears that the bluish light on TVs, computer screens, and phone screens does interfere with sleep, so I do tell my kids “get away from the phones” around 9pm or so. Other than that, it’s really the same thing that people dealt with in 1985, 1965, 1945, and 1845—are young people doing the things they need to do to develop well into adults?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Responding to both Aaron and Bert: with my own five children (now ranging between nearly thirteen down to nearly five), we suspect that instilling an early love for reading, outdoor play, Legos, creative play, etc., has mitigated the effects of screen addiction.

We do let the children use computers for different things: Scratch (an MIT learn-to-code site), typing their own stories (love of reading —> love of writing), some basic games, and the occasional movie. But we cap those times, games and movies the most. And we don’t have problems getting them to go read, go play, go do their chores (OK, maybe some problems there).

So I think there’s something to Aaron’s comment that it helps to acquire the taste for other things early, similar to the way we gave our babies rice cereal, then peas, then carrots, and only later the fruit. And I think there’s something to Bert’s comment that having other stuff to do—and that you need to do—is important too.

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA