Why Limiting Our Kids to 1-2 Hours of Screen Time a Day Is Ridiculous

Before my son was born, he was connected to smart technology.

ByABC News
September 16, 2014, 9:49 AM
Two kids can be seen playing on an iPad in this stock image.
Two kids can be seen playing on an iPad in this stock image.
Derek Northrop/Getty Images

— -- (Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Babble.com. It has been reprinted here with permission. Disney is the parent company of both Babble and ABC News.)

Recently actress Jennifer Garner shared her thoughts about technology and her kids: “I think we’re all as a society figuring out what’s appropriate. I mean, we can’t keep in front of what our kids are learning or seeing or using, technology-wise … Thank goodness my kids are little enough that they’re far from having phones or iPads or anything.”

With kids aged 8, 5, and 2, I am surprised Garner is struggling with the appropriateness of technology. One of the weirdest parts of parenting in the age of non-stop data and information is how conflicting screen time reports can be. One minute we are chastised for allowing our children to use a smartphone and mobile apps, and the next we are being urged to get our kids interested in coding and STEM games. Give the kids access! Take away the access! When it comes to our kids and technology, are we really the generation who knows best?

When I was in fifth grade, my elementary school was gifted a computer lab by Apple. We were kids who had stained purple fingers from taking pop quizzes fresh off the mimeograph and having a computer lab was mind-blowing. There were only two teachers who were comfortable in the lab. These were teachers who sometimes needed to answer our questions with an “I don’t know. Let’s figure it out.”

Our generation grew up alongside computers and smart technology. Many of us got our first email address in high school or college and still remember the sound of a modem dial-up. This kind of technology didn’t exist, and then it did. We can get oddly nostalgic for things like beepers and pay phones or continuous printer paper.

Technology did not slow down for us while we were getting jobs, starting families, building careers, and becoming grownups. If anything technology picked up speed and warped into hyper-drive. We will never catch up; there will always be something new. Always.

Before my son was born, he was connected to smart technology. I had been monitoring my pregnancy symptoms online and logging my diet in a journal on my phone. After he was born, I used an app to help me keep track of how often he was nursing and to record his measurements.

Everything about our children’s lives have been connected to technology — from the beginning. And yet our generation seems hell-bent on declaring “screen time” as a bad thing. The most recent recommendations from The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests children over the age of two should be limited to no more than one or two hours a day.

“Studies have shown that excessive media use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity. In addition, the Internet and cell phones can provide platforms for illicit and risky behaviors.”

One of the problems here seems to be how “screen time” continues to be defined within these studies. On the surface a screen is a screen, but I don’t believe there is equality between television, smart phones, and computers. Not to make any form of media the bad guy, but I don’t believe watching television is on the same par as playing an app or computer game.