Why We Don’t Limit Screen Time

Should you limit screen time? Do you think we should restrict television and computer games in the best interest of our children? In this post, I explain why we don't limit screen time at all, and how greatly it's benefitted our children.

Why We Don't Limit Screen Time

If you google “screen time”, you find articles saying how terrible TV and video games are for kids. Like this one about how too much screen time causes obesity and behavioral problems. Or how too much screen time will make you die young: Too Much TV, Screen Time May Mean Earlier Death.

Sounds pretty scary, eh? I don't believe a word of it. We don't limit our daughter's screen time at all. In this post, I'll explain why.

Why We Don't Limit Screen Time

Before I get into why we don't limit screen time, I need to first talk about unschooling.

A few years ago, my family and I attended the Adventures in Homeschooling conference. We had such a blast. It was my second time to go with my daughter, Kate, but this time I brought my husband Seth and my inlaws, Ed and Nancy (both former schoolteachers, they can't stop raving about the conference).

At the conference, we got to hear Sandra Dodd speak. Sandra is the author of [easyazon-link asin=”0557181550″ locale=”us”]Sandra Dodd's Big Book of Unschooling[/easyazon-link].

I'd heard about unschooling prior to the conference but I was skeptical. Deep down I thought unschooling was just a bunch of lazy parents who did not want to take the time and energy to properly homeschool their children. I thought these parents were just not strict enough to enforce bed times and schedules. I was pretty certain that unschooled kids would end up not properly educated.

Sandra Dodd changed my mind. My husband's too. We were absolutely blown away by her lecture, and we left the conference, a copy of her book in hand (which is amazing), 150% committed to unschooling.

UPDATE: It's been 4 years now since I wrote this post, and unschooling was the best possible choice we could have made. At the end of this post, I will explain why unschooling and not limiting my daughter's screen time has made her smarter, happier and just the most amazing kid!

Some Arguments for Why We Should Limit Screen Time

Let's talk about some of the arguments for limiting screen time…

Why We Don't Limit Screen Time

Obesity Is Caused By Excessive Screen Time

Let's start with the argument that screen time makes you fat and unhealthy. This is a ridiculous argument.

Mark Twain, one of my heroes, wrote his books in bed. He wasn't fat and he was perfectly healthy. Funny, I also blog in bed (that's where I am right now if you must know.)

And there are lots of people who spend 12+ hours a day on computers who are not obese. Take Bill Gates, for example:

Why We Don't Limit Screen Time

Not exactly fat, eh?

Not everyone wants to be outside running around all day. While some people want to grow up to be professional soccer players or surfers or jungle explorers, others (like me, and like my daughter) enjoy reading and writing and playing on computers.

Just because you feel compelled to spend a lot of time lying around writing or reading or watching shows or playing games, that doesn't mean you can't get your share of exercise. When you bloody feel like it. I happen to like swimming. And I like to listen to audiobooks while I lift weights, garden or go for long walks. But please don't put me on a soccer field — I'd rather have a root canal!

Books are Good and TV is Bad

I can hear you out there, saying, “But reading books and writing is good! Watching TV is bad!”

This is another argument that drives me crazy.

Why is The Sopranos a lesser artistic achievement than Shakespeare's plays? Of course not. Is The Simpsons less intellectually stimulating than reading short stories by Oscar Wilde? Definitely not.

Going to see plays by Shakespeare or Wilde were the equivalent of watching TV in that era.

I argue that good television is just as valid and just as enriching as good literature.

Why We Don't Limit Screen Time

I know the negative comments will come in with this one. People will say, “Yes, but there are a lot of bad TV shows out there.” Well, sure there are. There are a lot of bad books out there, too.

When it comes to TV, there are lots of choices, many of them excellent. Sure, there are lots of bad choices, too. But isn't that like anything? You can read Danielle Steel (sorry, Danielle) or you can read Kurt Vonnegut. Your choice. Just because there are a lot of bad TV shows doesn't make TV bad. Just like the zillions of bad books don't make reading bad.

And maybe if more of our very smart and creative kids spent more time watching TV, they'd move to Hollywood and make better TV shows.

Why We Don't Limit Screen Time

Computers and TV Are a “Waste of Time”

Really? How much do you guys learn on a daily basis browsing the web? How many blogs and articles do you read? How many podcasts do you listen to?

How many TV shows and movies have inspired and delighted you and turned your entire life in a new direction? I can list hundreds of them.

Not only that, but TV and computers are a way to bond with others. Everyone's always afraid that homeschoolers won't be adequately “socialized”. Cut them off from TV and computers and I guarantee you, they will have a harder time fitting in in college, and will not be able to relate to fellow coworkers and clients in the workforce.

I've known friends who grew up in Europe and Asia. They really felt left out when bombarded by continuous media references when we were in college. They had no idea what The Brady Bunch was, or Gilligan's Island. Same thing at my various jobs at digital ad agencies when we were all quoting Monty Python and The Simpsons.

Furthermore, if the 10,000 Hour Rule theory is correct (featured in Malcolm Gladwell's book, [easyazon-link asin=”0316017930″ locale=”us”]Outliers: The Story of Success[/easyazon-link]), the more time our kids spend on computers, the better — if in fact, it is computers that they love. If they love playing guitar, they should do that, as much as possible. If they love rock climbing, they should do that, ad infinitum.

And, by the way, who are we to judge? If your kid's big dream is to be a world-famous author or an engineer or a game designer or a trumpet player — who are we to judge? Why is one thing better than another? Every child has a special gift that he or she brings the world. Who are we to judge what they should or shouldn't be doing instead of that thing that they love?

They should do what it is they love as much and as often as possible because this is, according to the 10,000 Hour Rule, precisely what will lead them to greatness (not to mention true joy):

A common theme that appears throughout Outliers is the “10,000-Hour Rule”, based on a study by Anders Ericsson. Gladwell claims that greatness requires enormous time, using the source of The Beatles' musical talents and Gates' computer savvy as examples.

The Beatles performed live in Hamburg, Germany over 1,200 times from 1960 to 1964, amassing more than 10,000 hours of playing time, therefore meeting the 10,000-Hour Rule. Gladwell asserts that all of the time The Beatles spent performing shaped their talent, and quotes Beatles' biographer Philip Norman as saying, “So by the time they returned to England from Hamburg, Germany, ‘they sounded like no one else. It was the making of them.'

Gates met the 10,000-Hour Rule when he gained access to a high school computer in 1968 at the age of 13, and spent 10,000 hours programming on it. (Source)

What If Playing Computer Games Makes You Smarter?

Jane McGonigal, author of [easyazon_link identifier=”0143120611″ locale=”US” tag=”cheeseslave0e-20″]Reality is Broken[/easyazon_link] and [easyazon_link identifier=”0143109774″ locale=”US” tag=”cheeseslave0e-20″]Super Better[/easyazon_link] writes in depth about how computer gaming not only makes you smarter but happier and more motivated.

Watch this video about how video games can make you smarter — so fascinating! I had never even heard of the Flynn Effect.

It's the “gamifying” mentality that inspired Kevin Richardson to “Speed Camera Lottery” — a brilliant idea of paying people to stay under the speed limit. Watch this video below; it's very inspiring!

Computers: Where the Jobs Are

I read this next excerpt on a blog written by a Cheeseslave reader. I think it's just brilliant. She's talking about her son who already knows several programming languages — and he's not even 10 years old. They're an unschooling family and they do not limit screen time.

I found a book for kids on computer programming, called Hello World: Computer Programming for Kids and Other Beginners. He had been expressing more interest in computer programming, so I purchased it. The recommended age was for 10+, but I knew from personal experience that kids as young as 8 years old could learn computer programming (I had learned BASIC at that age). He devoured the book. He was ripping out programs left and right. He was obsessed. When he finished with that book, he designed and wrote his own virtual pet program. Then, he announced that he wanted to learn HTML, so that's when we started getting the Head First books published by O'Reilly. He has gone through them in this order: HTML & CSS, PHP & MySQL, Object Oriented Analysis & Design, Javascript (at which point he announced that he needed to learn HTML5, so I got him a more ‘grown-up' resource book), Ajax, Design Patterns, and then Java. He was able to discuss some problems he was having with a PHP design on the phone with his uncle, hang up the phone, and fix his problem within 15 minutes, much to the amazement of his uncle and his parents! Just a few months ago, he helped his father design a graphical user interface (GUI) to help control and display images from an array of 14 digital cameras. Source

Meanwhile, check out this article from Forbes about how Silicon Valley is where are the jobs are:

With 9% unemployment continuing to make headlines throughout the country, the current job landscape shows few signs of improvement. And while the rest of the nation wonders when the hemorrhaging will end, Silicon Valley is bucking this economic trend… According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, economic growth in the San Jose-Santa Clara-Sunnyvale area grew 13.4% to $168.5 billion compared to overall U.S. GDP growth of 2.6% last year. Unemployment in Silicon Valley has fallen below the national average over the past year from 11% to 8.5%, with April experiencing the biggest drop in unemployment in more than two years. Most importantly, companies based in Silicon Valley are hiring at a fast clip; engineer recruitment fueling much of this resurgence and recovery.

Silicon Valley is currently in the midst of a talent war for engineers and IT professionals where companies are sparing no expense to lure some of the brightest minds to join their ranks. Top paid engineers at some of the most venerable companies in the Valley like Google, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter can expect to earn an average salary of between $125,000 and $180,000 annually. Source: Forbes

So Why Are We Limiting Screen Time?

Why We Don't Limit Screen Time

What would have happened if Apple founder Steve Jobs' parents had told him to stop tinkering in the garage with co-founder Steve Wozniak? What if they had said, “You need to stop wasting time and get outside and play.”

What if Mark Zuckerberg's parents had limited his computer time and told him he couldn't learn BASIC in middle school? How many thousands of hours do you think Zuckerberg “wasted” in front of a screen prior to launching Facebook in college?

What if Aaron Sorkin's folks had discouraged his interest in drama and acting? What if Lorne Michaels had been told that TV was a waste of time?

If we restrict our kids' computer and TV time, maybe we'll feel better in the short term, knowing that they are spending more time riding bikes and soaking up vitamin D. Maybe they'll also never end up writing for The Simpsons or winning an Emmy or designing computer games or making $100K+ in Silicon Valley or starting a multi-billion dollar computer company.

I guess there are always jobs at Taco Bell.

Update on My Children and Our Decision to Not Limit Screen Time

We've officially unschooling for a year and a half (she was in Montessori for a couple years before that) and it's been 4 years since we decided not to limit screen time. Kate is one of the smartest, most together, most mature children I know. Yes, I'm biased, but this kid absolutely blows me away.

Why We Don't Limit Screen Time

A few examples from Kate (she's 9)… here are just a few of the things she wanted to discuss at the dinner table recently:

  • Copyright law
  • Kim Jong-un and North Korea
  • Why Japanese is such a hard language to learn (we are learning Japanese together)
  • The fact that Hillary Clinton wanted a no-fly zone in Syria
  • Why we need currency
  • Real estate investing and passive income
  • Hatsune Miku and Japanese vocaloid music

Whenever I ask Kate where she learns about all of these things, you know what she says? YouTube.

Why We Don't Limit Screen Time

Kate's little brother, Oliver, who is 2, only started getting interested in screens recently. Which makes sense because he's talking now and obsessed with learning words. He has been learning all of his colors, numbers, and now has a huge vocabulary, mainly from watching videos on YouTube.

Why We Don't Limit Screen Time

Read More About Why We Don't Limit Screen Time

Want to read more on this topic? Check out Sandra Dodd's website: https://sandradodd.com/screentime You can also order her book here: [easyazon-link asin=”0557181550″ locale=”us”]Sandra Dodd's Big Book of Unschooling[/easyazon-link].

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Why We Don't Limit Screen Time

Do You Limit Screen Time?

What say you? Do you limit screen time, yes or no? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Find Me Online

Ann Marie Michaels

I have 25 years of experience in digital and online media & marketing. I started my career in Silicon Valley and Los Angeles, working at some of the world’s top ad agencies. In 2007, after my first child was born, I started this little food blog which I grew to over 250K monthly unique website visitors and over 350K social media followers. For nearly 15 years, I've helped my audience of mostly moms and women 25-65 cook for their families and live a healthier lifestyle.

 The year after I started the blog, I founded a blog network in the health & wellness space called Village Green Network. I started the company on my coffee table and bootstrapped the business to over $1.3 million in annual revenue within 5 years. During that time, I helped a number of our bloggers become six figure earners. After being censored on almost every social media platform for telling the After being censored on almost every social media platform from Facebook and Instagram to Pinterest and Twitter, and being deplatformed on Google, I am now deployed as a digital soldier, writing almost exclusively about politics on my blog Cheeseslave.com. Because who can think about food when we are fighting the second revolutionary war and third world war? Don't worry, there will be more recipes one day. After the war is over.

433 thoughts on “Why We Don’t Limit Screen Time

  1. But most kids, mine included, are not programming or watching high quality tv during their screen time. They are zoning out playing video games and watching cartoons. I would not be limiting their screen time if they were doing what Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs were doing.

    1. @Julie D

      I had to spend a whole lot of hours “fooling around” with computers before I was interested in taking a class in interactive media in college. This was in 1995 at UT Austin. It was one of the only classes of its kind in the world at the time.

      In fact, the professor wouldn’t even let kids in unless they were already VERY familiar with computers. There was no world wide web back then so I was just messing around, playing games, etc. I also used computers to write papers, send email (on Unix) and just generally exploring. If I had not spent all those years messing around, I probably would not have had the interest to sign up for the class, and she certainly would not have allowed me in the class.

      1. And what’s wrong with cartoons? I bet Matt Groening spent hundreds, more likely thousands of hours watching and reading cartoons before he ever created The Simpsons.

        Groening grew up in Portland, and attended Ainsworth Elementary School and Lincoln High School.[9] From 1972[10] to 1977, Groening attended The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington,[11] a liberal arts school that he described as “a hippie college, with no grades or required classes, that drew every weirdo in the Northwest.”[12] He served as the editor of the campus newspaper, The Cooper Point Journal, for which he also wrote articles and drew cartoons.[10] He befriended fellow cartoonist Lynda Barry after discovering that she had written a fan letter to Joseph Heller, one of Groening’s favorite authors, and had received a reply.[13] Groening has credited Barry with being “probably [his] biggest inspiration.”[14] He also cited the Disney animated film One Hundred and One Dalmatians as what got him interested in cartoons,[15] as well as Peanuts and its creator Charles M. Schulz as inspirations.[16]

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matt_Groening

            1. Yeah…have you watched the simpsons? The art is hardly what I’d call stunning…. but it doesn’t matter, The Simpsons is still an awesome cartoon.

        1. I live in WA not to far from Evergreen, and they are pretty anti-TV. They are a very exploratory college so encourage learning from all different sources. But anyways, being an Evergreen student I doubt he spent all his time watching TV. I bet if he did he would of had little interest in creating his own cartoon. Evergreen encourages people to do many different things, not just one, in order to foster creativity.

          1. @Julie S

            I was not making the point that Evergreen is perfect, or even a good school. I know hardly anything about them.

            Just quoting Wikipedia about Matt Groening — that what inspired him was other people’s cartoons.

            Most people decide they want to do something after watching someone else do it.

        2. I am not going to set my children up to only have the choice of being a cartoonist. If they are passionate about making cartoons, fine. If they are vegging out, slack jawed and bored, not Ok. And whats’s wrong with cartoons? Studied have proven negative mental impact of certain cartoons, but you had already mentioned the quality difference so we may agree on that point.

      2. P.S. I am not anti technology at all. We bought them both their own Macs when they were 5.(My husband is a programmer.) But as they have gotten older, they do this video game (or TV) zone out that could go on for many hours if there was no intervention. You might feel differently about this issue in a few years. Although the zone out thing seems to generally be a boy thing.

        1. I completely agree Julie. my husband is IT too and adult ADD. My son follows in his footsteps, brilliant, but the behavior and the zoning out definitely is worse when there is too much screen time and he knows it. It would be all Captain Underpants and Angry Birds if I didn’t encourage more Chapter Books as I call them. And then he loves them, he has a hard time making those choices on his own.

          1. I know lots and lots of super successful, happy, fulfilled ADD adults who have jobs they love in the computer industry.

            I wish I had made Angry Birds — the franchise is worth over $1 billion

            https://www.cybereview.net/today-in-tech-history/2012/3/23/how-much-is-the-angry-birds-franchise-worth.html

            1. Hm, I don’t think that’s a good counter argument.

              I don’t think many would say that those who want a career in technology shouldn’t use the tools of their trade. This is very different from passive consumption by children of television.

              Also, creating Angry Birds or any other game isn’t what Valerie is referring to — she’s saying he’d *play* these games all day if given the choice. You might say that playing games will spark an interest in designing games later in life… but for the vast majority of kids, that’s not the case. It’s just a way to pass the time that also has a neurological impact. And while some of this impact might be good, there is plenty that is established to be detrimental — moreso for some.

              1. @Annie

                Also, creating Angry Birds or any other game isn’t what Valerie is referring to — she’s saying he’d *play* these games all day if given the choice. You might say that playing games will spark an interest in designing games later in life… but for the vast majority of kids, that’s not the case. It’s just a way to pass the time that also has a neurological impact. And while some of this impact might be good, there is plenty that is established to be detrimental — moreso for some.

                All the video game designers, authors, film directors, cartoonists, TV writers, journalists, bloggers, etc. I know (and yes I know people in all of these professions) all passively consumed the media prior to becoming a professional. The professional authors I know read tons of books prior to ever picking up a pen or a laptop. Same for the others.

                Yes, it’s true, the vast majority of kids won’t ever become game designers. But maybe that’s because we limit their screen time and tell them video games are bad.

                If you think video games and TV are bad, OK. But why must you inflict your kids with your opinion and squelch their dreams?

                1. “But why must you inflict your kids with your opinion and squelch their dreams?”

                  Really? What an asinine statement. I’m pretty sure it is my job as a parent to “inflict” my children with my opinions. How else would they learn things like manners or morals or safety? I know better than my 4 yr old what is good for her. That is why she still lives with me and is dependent on me. It is called wisdom that comes from experience.

                  And as far as “squelching” dreams…if my child’s dream is to dance/sing/be an astronaut/doctor/vet/soldier etc, etc. How in the world will I be “squelching” that dream by not letting them sit in front of a tv all day long? I would be more likely to be “squelching” their dreams by allowing them to engage in an activity for extended periods of time that has been proven to have a detrimental effect on their brains. Wether or not you believe it to be detrimental doesn’t change reality. I think there have been enough studies done showing the effects it has on the brain (especially a still forming brain) that this blog comes across more as a defense for what you allow your own child to do.

                  1. Exactly! Of course our children’s interests are encouraged, but not to the detriment of our family values. My kids are well loved, but they don’t make the rules in our house. There is a balance between the needs of the family & the needs of the individual. Spiritual development is nurtured as well as physical & emotional, but career development at age five? Not on my radar at this point. I may have misinterpreted this post, but it seems to encourage a self-absorbed child.

                    1. <>
                      So when you tell your child who is really into a show – sorry, no more tv” they are thinking, “wow, mom loves me so much, she cares so much about my development, and I’m so lucky to have her looking out for me and teaching me.”
                      NO. They are thinking about how they don’t get to watch tv anymore because mommy said so. Poor them, no fair. *that* is self-absorbed thinking.
                      Children learn to think and care about others when others think and care about them. “Honey, I see you are really into this, it must be important to you,” goes a LOT farther toward teaching a kid to care about others than telling them what they like is bad or unimportant.

                  2. @Margaret

                    “But why must you inflict your kids with your opinion and squelch their dreams?”

                    Really? What an asinine statement.

                    Typically I remove comments like this one. See above re: – Personal attacks and insults

                    Work on making a logical argument and you won’t have to resort to insults.

                    I’m pretty sure it is my job as a parent to “inflict” my children with my opinions. How else would they learn things like manners or morals or safety?

                    Those are not “opinions”. Those are rules and mores of how to function in society.

                    Stop when the traffic light is red – RULE, not opinion.
                    Don’t talk to strangers – RULE, not opinion.
                    Don’t talk with your mouth full – RULE, not opinion.

                    I know better than my 4 yr old what is good for her.

                    I’m sure she thinks differently.

                    That is why she still lives with me and is dependent on me. It is called wisdom that comes from experience.

                    My daughter still lives with me and we support her and take care of her. We share our opinions with her, just like she shares her opinions with us. But we don’t make her feel bad for pursuing something we don’t “approve of”.

                    And as far as “squelching” dreams…if my child’s dream is to dance/sing/be an astronaut/doctor/vet/soldier etc, etc. How in the world will I be “squelching” that dream by not letting them sit in front of a tv all day long?

                    You are missing my point. The idea is to let kids pursue their interests, which will lead them to where they want to go.

                    I would be more likely to be “squelching” their dreams by allowing them to engage in an activity for extended periods of time that has been proven to have a detrimental effect on their brains.

                    There are studies, but there are studies that show all kinds of things. They are not necessarily true. Ancel Keys “proved” that saturated fat is bad for you. Is it really? No.

                    Wether or not you believe it to be detrimental doesn’t change reality.

                    Reality is subjective. According to Einstein et al.

                    I think there have been enough studies done showing the effects it has on the brain (especially a still forming brain) that this blog comes across more as a defense for what you allow your own child to do.

                    I will look at those studies. But there are just as many studies that show that TV and games make you smarter. You might want to read those before you make up your mind.

                    1. you say there are just as many studies that show TV and games make you smarter, but what do you mean by smarter? do you mean smarter as in educated by the mass media on things they want you to know or don’t know? don’t know you how much brainwashing is done by TV and that most of the US population are victim to lies, propaganda and subliminal messages? Yes, this applies to games and movies as well. And you want your kid to grow up to become just as indoctrinated as the rest of the sheeple? besides, how can you trust studies? or statistics? how do you know what exactly someone did during the studies? who funded the study? are you sure there wasn’t a conflict of interest there? there’s a statistic about alcohol related deaths being 75000 per year, but did you know that if someone was driving a car and was completely sober and he had someone who was passed out drunk in the back seat and along comes a sober truckdriver who hits them running a red light, that this is considered an alcohol related death? I don’t think the number of alcohol related deaths would be quite as high should we only count the deaths of people who died as a direct result of drunk driving. The only real evidence that TV can make you ‘smart’ is something you can see yourself. And I haven’t seen very many people who grew up with a good dose of TV (including myself) to know a whole lot about things that really matter, like whether or not 911 was staged or if the war on terror is as real as they say. I’m not saying that we should completely ban TV or video games, but to allow free reign of that when it’s purposefully made to be addictive is not in the best interests of the child, in my opinion. The internet is a great way to learn about the world and can be a great tool for a well-rounded and far-reaching education, but sometimes you need to talk and interact with people physically. And I know people who have always had unlimited access to video games, TV and the computer, including my own brother (yes, he works at a software company). Are they making lots of money? They’re making OK money. Are they happy? Only when they’re in their element, which is playing video games. Real life doesn’t seem to be as exciting for them as it is on the screen. Yes, these are very few examples to work with as opposed to ‘a real study’, but I really think studies are overrated. You should really use your own judgement and come to your own conclusions. Use intuition, common sense. Don’t let other people tell you how to think! My kids would love to watch Dinosaur Train and Thomas the Train all day long, every day. But I limit it because I really don’t feel like these shows are going to be of great benefit if they watched it all they want.

                    1. That thank you was to Margaret by the way. Cheeseslave, I like your blog, but I’m really disappointed with how you are answering people here. I feel that you are violating your own rules in many replies.

                    2. @Monica

                      How am I violating my own rules?

                      It’s impossible to please everyone. I know that many don’t agree with me on this issue but I do need to be true to what I believe.

                    3. I feel you are violating your own rules because you are being insulting, rude, abusive, and condescending in many of your answers. I’m not the only one who feels this way either, I know several who have now unscribed. I’m not saying this to be rude or say ‘I told you so’, I just think you are not being very considerate and making yourself look bad. I want to think yo are not, especially since tone of voice cannot be understood when typing. I’m sorry if I misunderstood your replies. I’m not going to comment further because I don’t want to cause any trouble. Thank you for being true to what you believe.

  2. Interesting. food for thought. Like all good ‘out there’ things I have changed in my life it takes me awhile to come on board to some things, like barefoot running and not vaccinating, that to my medical mind just didn’t make sense at first. but once they dwell with you they start to really make sense….i like questioning the social norms 🙂 especially when it comes to parenting! Thanks for sharing!

    1. @Charity

      Great question! We’re going to be doing a mix of both. We’ll spend a couple hours reading in the morning. We will be reading Story of the World as well as all the classics. And we’ll be doing lots of field trips and park days.

      We got some graphic novel versions of classic books at the homeschooling conference the other week — including Mark Twain, Dickens, and a number of others.

      1. We also incorporate aspects of different educational philosophies into our homeschool.
        One thing that really resonates with me from the Waldorf educational approach is limiting technology in order to allow children’s imaginations and creativity to flourish. We do have a TV in our home, but no video games, and virtually no computer time. I see in my children’s own play that when they are forced to be without screens their play is deeper, more creative, and less violent.
        I was an I.T. professional, and I personally see no use for introducing kids to computers. The skills they need to be successful in a digital world are logic, creative thinking, and fearlessness (willingness to fail). The technology changes so fast that whatever they learn now will be outdated soon. What matters more is thinking skills and asking the right questions. “Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.” – Pablo Picasso
        This is an interesting New York Times article about top executives from Google, Apple, Hewlett Packard, and others sending their children to a Waldorf school that has no screens. Interesting reading. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/technology/at-waldorf-school-in-silicon-valley-technology-can-wait.html?pagewanted=all
        Appreciate the lively discussion on this topic! It’s an important one.

        1. @Charity

          One thing that really resonates with me from the Waldorf educational approach is limiting technology in order to allow children’s imaginations and creativity to flourish.

          I was introduced to Waldorf when Kate was a baby but I rejected it. We just don’t fit in with the total rejection of technology.

          I was an I.T. professional, and I personally see no use for introducing kids to computers. The skills they need to be successful in a digital world are logic, creative thinking, and fearlessness (willingness to fail). The technology changes so fast that whatever they learn now will be outdated soon. What matters more is thinking skills and asking the right questions. “Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.” – Pablo Picasso

          If I hadn’t been on computers since I was 12 or 13 (thanks, Dad!) I doubt I would have gotten into the computer lab I was a member of when I was at UT Austin.

          This is an interesting New York Times article about top executives from Google, Apple, Hewlett Packard, and others sending their children to a Waldorf school that has no screens. Interesting reading. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/technology/at-waldorf-school-in-silicon-valley-technology-can-wait.html?pagewanted=all

          I will check it out — thanks!

          Appreciate the lively discussion on this topic! It’s an important one.

          I really appreciate you guys coming over to discuss it!

          1. OK I read that article and to be honest, it sounds awful to me!

            I can’t imagine why a successful person working at Google or the like would allow their children to go to a school where they don’t allow they to touch “gadgets” until 8th grade. If most people made their living on farms 200 years ago, would we in turn prohibit our children from participating on farms until 8th grade? Nonsense!

            Sorry but I don’t agree with Waldorf. Doesn’t make any sense to me, and seems fake and artificial.

            1. Waldorf education has been around a long time. There are almost 200 schools in the US alone filled with extremely intelligent teachers and administrators and well-informed parents. It may not be perfect but “fake and artificial” it is certainly not. I think before you insult an entire educational movement you should educate yourself a bit more.

            2. When you read Steiner, you get the brilliance. You don’t have to completely reject technology; I went to a Waldorf school and had TV and a computer growing up. In fact, I watched quite a bit of cable TV while a Waldorf student. I went to one of the more ‘liberal’ Waldorfs (on Long Island) and quite a bit of the students came from families who didn’t abstain from media either.

              There are more restrictive schools that do homechecks for stuff like TV and microwaves, but I didn’t go to one of those. Steiner’s beliefs for restricting things on the young, growing mind are legit. I think a lot of the arguments against the screen are for young children under 6.

              Steiner pioneered the biodynamic farming movement, anti-vaccination and anthroposophical medicine (anti-cancer and chronic illness with mistletoe) wayyyy before it evolved in mainstream culture. Don’t write off Steiner because of that angle, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

              1. @Justine

                I think Rudolf Steiner is really cool!

                I was just put off by the Waldorf school we visited. They told us they would allow zero screentime. We were just not into that.

                1. Well I mean there was an unofficial no TV decree but many of the families didn’t follow that at all. All my friends had computers. There were a handful of families who were strict with their kids but for the most part the dominant culture balanced it out and it wasn’t militant at all. I can’t imagine an LA Waldorf school being as crazy as some of the rural ones. The classroom and pedagogy definitely doesn’t use media in the lower levels, but for the most part no one cared what you did in your own home, I can’t imagine how strict this school actually is though — was it a K-12 Waldorf?

              2. Oh, and for what it’s worth, my fellow Waldorf alums are MIT PhD candidates, analysts for the UN, journalists/media talking heads (Irin Carmon from Salon.com), architects, lawyers, doctors, midwives, Arabic scholars, musicians in the Philharmonic, etc. They all speak one or more foreign languages and are one of the most brilliant, creative people I know. Some grew up with no TV and others hid their beepers in their Jansports in 8th grade. Before you denigrate Waldorf education as being fake and artificial, check out these famous alumni who received such a subpar education ihttps://www.diewaldorfs.waldorf.net/list.html

      2. That sounds intriguing, but that’s not really the Classical Model of education…just reading good literature. There is so much more to it than just WHAT you read. It’s a MODEL and a METHOD. You might be thinking more of a blend of Charlotte Mason and Unschooling, which I’m sure will be a great fit for your young daughter. It took me several years when I was younger, trying to figure out the different methods of homeschooling.

  3. The examples you gave were adults who were successful using the medium of computers/media, not children. Everyone has to find their way on this issue, as it is a complex subject. But for our family, what works best is to allow our children the opportunity to watch a show of my approval for an hour or two once per week. There are many reasons for this choice, but the most fundamental is that we feel that creative play is stifled with too much media exposure. I feel it myself, my mind gets numb and a bit unfocused after too much time in front of the computer. Our family does not own a tv. Our kids will have plenty of opportunities to watch tv and sit in front of the computer later in their lives, but they have one childhood in which to learn to play creatively and learn how to mature into independent people. For our family that process will not include unlimited media exposure.

    1. I’m going to have so write that I agree with you Dia. We don’t have TV, but do allow our children to watch movies. I am always amazed at how their ability for creative play and even a desire to sit and learn something new completely disappears when they are allowed to watch too much. The images, the stories, the everything is already created for their brain. Their brains don’t have to work, instead they are essentially able to zone out. Versus, the days when there are no movies I love to see the play they create with sticks in the yard or with crayons/markers at the kitchen table. I feel the same is true for myself. If I want to get into a creative flow and find inspiration for new art, the worst thing I can do is sit in front of the computer screen and starting watching entertainment.

      Now with that said. Certainly I think there is a time and a place to be simply entertained and also their are some great things to learn through certain shows/movies, etc. I love natures shows for my kids. They have learned a lot about how animals exist in nature and it’s only added to their creative play. I too certainly have learned plenty of beneficial information from watching movies like Back to Eden and so forth.

      In the end I think it really comes down to balance and your child. What works for one parent/family/child will not necessarily work for another. If we pay attention to our children, I think it’s safe to say most of us (if not all) can tell when something is no longer good for our children and is only detrimental.

      Just my two cents.

      1. I agree completely with these couple of posts.

        I’d also say that all kids are of course different. My oldest son (7) will watch and watch, and become a zombie, and weepy. It truly impacts him neurologically, and he won’t pull himself away.

        My middle son (4) will get bored and get up and do something else.

        But even when he doesn’t, if I limit TV, the creative play that takes its place invariably confirms that play is better.

        Regardless, the creativity of *watching* TV — now matter how creative the *creation* of programming it — is viortually nonexistent. Completely different brainwaves are activiated when watching shows. It does not begin to compare to the mental work of reading.

      2. My son’s creativity is fueled by the movies he watches (though I used to be afraid it would stifle it)- he plays more creative, imaginative games when they are based off movies he’s been watching. It’s like how some (most) authors are inspired by what they read. Their creativity is fueled when they read other writers. Anything that opens the world and makes it bigger can contribute to creative life – maybe you’re not seeing your girls as being creative when they’ve been watching movies. Also, young children imitate a lot. It’s not *all* creativity – and I think a flux between creativity/activity and passivity is helpful and necessary for healthy development. Growing brains need restful processing time. Movies can be a creative way to achieve that.

  4. What you’re completely failing to take into account are the subliminal images embedded into these programs for kids. If that sounds too woo for you, I urge you to do your research.

    Perhaps if you were interested in understanding both sides of the story, you’d read some Rudolf Steiner and look into what the Waldorf movement has to say about screen-time and the developing brain and creativity of a young child. Steiner was a man before his time and lead much of the organics movement with his work into biodynamic farming.

    Even the very mainstream American Association of Pediatrics recommends limiting or restricting TV for kids under 5 for very similar reasons.

    I know you think Disney is completely benign, but perhaps you could don a tinfoil hat for an afternoon and really research the history of Disney and who was at the behest of his funding. You might change your rainbows and sunshine view about Disney and the content of their children’s programming after doing some digging.

    There’s something unsettlingly cavalier about your attitude towards this issue, but to each his own, I suppose.

    1. @Gabriela

      What you’re completely failing to take into account are the subliminal images embedded into these programs for kids. If that sounds too woo for you, I urge you to do your research.

      I have.

      Perhaps if you were interested in understanding both sides of the story, you’d read some Rudolf Steiner and look into what the Waldorf movement has to say about screen-time and the developing brain and creativity of a young child. Steiner was a man before his time and lead much of the organics movement with his work into biodynamic farming.

      Love Rudolf Steiner but I do not like or agree with the modern-day interpretation of Waldorf.

      Even the very mainstream American Association of Pediatrics recommends limiting or restricting TV for kids under 5 for very similar reasons.

      They recommend a lot of things I wholeheartedly disagree with.

      I know you think Disney is completely benign, but perhaps you could don a tinfoil hat for an afternoon and really research the history of Disney and who was at the behest of his funding. You might change your rainbows and sunshine view about Disney and the content of their children’s programming after doing some digging.

      I never said Disney is completely benign. Walt Disney was a member of the Illumanti, if you believe in that stuff. I’m aware of that.

      There are a whole lot of authors who are Illumnati. I won’t list them here, but many are classics. Am I going to prevent my child from reading them because they are part of the ruling elite? No.

      But like plastic, they are part of our modern day world. We have plastic in our home, too.

      Instead of child-proofing the world, we should world-proof the child.

      There’s something unsettlingly cavalier about your attitude towards this issue, but to each his own, I suppose.

      The definition of cavalier is “Showing a lack of proper concern; offhand.”

      The fact that I took the time (a few hours) to write a whole blog post about this issue and spend several more hours answering comments is proof that I am not cavalier. Sorry if it seems that way to you.

    2. Disney is AWFUL. With the exception of some of the more recent pixar movies, I find most disney movies teach AWFUL values to children. And lets not get started on the whole disney merchandising/marketing evils. And I do think it’s evil. But as a child i LOVED disney movies. LOVED them. And now, as a thoughtful adult, I can look at disney movies with a critical eye. Because I’m not stupid. I’m educated. Strive for that for your children, and it won’t matter HOW many disney movies they watch or how many princess barbies they own.

  5. Since I married my husband my step sons have been t.v. heads, meaning if they could watch t.v. every waking hour except in the bathroom, they would. When xbox came out they would get hooked on a game and play for hour after hour. Then iphones and internet with facebook became popular and their mom said they could have the iphones.. now these boys are on their phones non-stop, and I mean literally. When we are in the car, at the dinner table, in their rooms, etc. This would all be fine and dandy if they were creating something and motivated about something, but they can’t even hold a normal conversation. Grunts and “I don know” are the responses we usually get. Their personal skills are so lacking and we have been teaching and repeating these manners skills for years, just common courtesies to start. To this day (5.5 years) they have never once asked me about myself, nor asked my husband how he is doing. We feel like failures because we have tried to teach and model kindness, unselfishness, and respect for others. It has not worked and they are so distracted by technology that I already feel sorry for their future wives. Every child is different and their parents need to do their best to give them well rounded educations that will help them in every area and to encourage them where their talents lie. It is difficult to find some of their talents when technology has taken their motivation to get up and live.

    1. It is sad when people get so wrapped up in the screen they don’t spend enough time with their families, happens to adults too.

    2. <>
      You’re blaming this on tv? This is just bad science. There are WAY too many factors here (for one, they are the children of a divorce.) to assume excessive tv watching is the cause for their behavior. It just sounds like a symptom of a much larger problem.

  6. I want to add to the discussion because I think it is a great one! Thanks for writing up such an informative post about all the arguments for and against screen time. I think that TV, computers and video games aren’t inherently bad for children. But the truth is, the more time a child spends watching television or is on the computer, the more likely the child is to be obese. This is a fact. This doesn’t mean that ALL children who spend 6+ hours a day sitting on the computer or in front of the TV will be obese, but they are more likely to be. This isn’t to say they aren’t gaining knowledge, developing social skills, or expressing their creativity, and these are all reasons why technology should be a large part of a childhood in todays world. Like you said, we don’t want to limit the next Bill Gates, etc. But those are not the norms. Most of the children spending hours in front of the TV and computer are (A) being sedentary for hours on end which is not healthy and (B) being subjected to intense advertising, mostly for foods which are unhealthy. More screen time on average results in negative health outcomes to the average child. I think each parent on a case by case basis needs to determine if screen time should be monitored for that child. The following should be considered: (A) is my child watching good programs? (B) are they learning? (C) are they active during other parts of the day? (D) are there any negative outcomes resulting from their screen time i.e. begging for toys/junk food? (E) do they have a genuine interest in technology or are they addicted to a particular useless program/activity. This topic cannot be generalized and while one parent may not need to limit screen time, another parent genuinely might have to; and both of these situations are A-OK.

    1. Great points, Danielle! Thanks for adding to the discussion!

      But the truth is, the more time a child spends watching television or is on the computer, the more likely the child is to be obese. This is a fact. This doesn’t mean that ALL children who spend 6+ hours a day sitting on the computer or in front of the TV will be obese, but they are more likely to be.

      Do you have a study? I’m curious to see it.

      Most kids are drinking soda pop and eating lots of junk, too. This is the norm. So, yes, more kids today are obese, but does this have anything to do with computers and TV?

      And my daughter, although she spends a lot of time playing with computers and watching TV, gets lots and lots of exercise as well. I do not think they have to be mutually exclusive.

      The following should be considered: (A) is my child watching good programs?

      Agreed. I have rules about what Kate watches. I wouldn’t let her watch The Sopranos at age 5. But she can watch any kid shows she wants or educational shows. I also let her watch The Simpsons. And that is what she wants to watch anyway. She has no interest in The Sopranos.

      (B) are they learning?

      Yes. They are always learning!

      (C) are they active during other parts of the day?

      I think if you provide them with opportunities to be active during other parts of the day (i.e. homeschool park days, swimming, going on walks, martial arts, etc.) then this is not an issue.

      (D) are there any negative outcomes resulting from their screen time i.e. begging for toys/junk food?

      We watch TV on Tivo and/or DVDs and/or Netflix. We rarely watch commercials.

      Also, we view the commercials we do watch as an opportunity to educate. Kate knows what junk food is. When we see a commercial with a junky sugar-bomb cereal, she says, “Mommy, that cereal’s not good for me.”

      I also tell her that if she wants the toys she sees on commercials, she can use her own money from her allowance to buy them.

      (E) do they have a genuine interest in technology or are they addicted to a particular useless program/activity. This topic cannot be generalized and while one parent may not need to limit screen time, another parent genuinely might have to; and both of these situations are A-OK.

      This is where trusting your child really comes in. What you may call a “useless activity” may be to a child a very important part of learning.

      When I was learning French, I really loved watching French children’s TV shows, watching French movies, and listening to French radio shows. It really accelerated my learning! Was it a waste of time? I don’t think so.

      1. <>
        Formula feeding and spoon-feeding infants (overriding their own self-regulatory eating habits) are *also* more likely to lead to obese children, but there aren’t many parents too concerned about that. Reading and sitting in school at a desk all day are also sedentary activities. Schools are cutting more and more recess time, and piling on more and more homework. That is all sedentary activity, and I can tell you, after working with kids afterschool for a few years- most of them are learning hardly ANYTHING from homework. I think those kids would be learning more by sitting in front of the tv watching their favorite show than doing homework. Better yet, give them frickin’ recess….

        1. LIke, have these studies that conclude that too much screen time is bad ALSO study children who don’t have to sit in school all day? Sit in a public school classroom for a DAY. *that’s* what’s rotting children’s brains…

  7. You’re welcome to raise your child any way you like. I personally don’t feel unrestricted screen time is wise for my children. My 4 year old will watch tv for as long as I let her (so she generally only watches on the weekend when her dad lets her). She sits without moving and I have to literally pause the program or wave my hand in front of her face to get her attention. That is not healthy and it will not make her brilliant. It is inhibiting her own creativity and well as being unhealthy. Sitting on a couch or in a chair for hours without moving is not healthy, please read www.katysays.com for an expert opinion on sitting.
    Implying that my child will end up working for Taco Bell if I don’t allow her unrestricted television access is just ridiculous. And that is really an understatement for how I feel about your closing line.

    1. Hmm… I guess Mark Twain must have been really unhealthy then too, since he lay in his bed bed writing novel after novel for many, many hours, months and years.

      And so was William Shakespeare, Dante, Steinbeck, Dickens, you name it.

      I read tons of novels growing up, and watched lots of TV and movies. I don’t regret a minute of any of it — except I do wish that there had been better shows on when I was growing up than Gilligan’s Island. We only had reruns. No cable, no TV, no internet. Kids today are so lucky!

      1. If you consider dying from a heart attack something that happens to a healthy person, I guess you must be right.

        I have no problem with reading. Reading requires that the imagination is used to “see” what the author is describing. I don’t see how reading a book can be compared to watching television.

        “I can hear you out there, saying, “But reading books and writing is good! Watching TV is bad!”
        Who says?”

        Here’s one person who says so. From The Journal Of Cognitive Liberties – “First of all, when you’re watching television the higher brain regions (like the midbrain and the neo-cortex) are shut down, and most activity shifts to the lower brain regions (like the limbic system). The neurological processes that take place in these regions cannot accurately be called “cognitive.” The lower or reptile brain simply stands poised to react to the environment using deeply embedded “fight or flight” response programs. Moreover, these lower brain regions cannot distinguish reality from fabricated images (a job performed by the neo-cortex), so they react to television content as though it were real, releasing appropriate hormones and so on. Studies have proven that, in the long run, too much activity in the lower brain leads to atrophy in the higher brain regions.” https://www.cognitiveliberty.org/5jcl/5JCL59.htm

        Where are the studies showing that kids with restricted tv viewing time won’t end up brilliant and will have socially stunted lives because they can’t talk about the latest episode of The Simpsons? Is that really the sum of what we aspire for our kids? To be able to talk about tv shows and win Emmy’s? Sounds a little superficial, in my opinion.

        1. @Margaret

          If you consider dying from a heart attack something that happens to a healthy person, I guess you must be right.

          Who died of a heart attack? Mark Twain? Charles Dickens? William Shakespeare?

          I have no problem with reading. Reading requires that the imagination is used to “see” what the author is describing. I don’t see how reading a book can be compared to watching television.

          OK compare a play or a movie to watching TV. Shakespeare wrote plays. So did many other great writers.

          Should we not go see plays because it’s similar to TV and they don’t allow us to use our imaginations?

          “I can hear you out there, saying, “But reading books and writing is good! Watching TV is bad!”

          Who says?”

          Here’s one person who says so. From The Journal Of Cognitive Liberties – “First of all, when you’re watching television the higher brain regions (like the midbrain and the neo-cortex) are shut down, and most activity shifts to the lower brain regions (like the limbic system). The neurological processes that take place in these regions cannot accurately be called “cognitive.” The lower or reptile brain simply stands poised to react to the environment using deeply embedded “fight or flight” response programs. Moreover, these lower brain regions cannot distinguish reality from fabricated images (a job performed by the neo-cortex), so they react to television content as though it were real, releasing appropriate hormones and so on. Studies have proven that, in the long run, too much activity in the lower brain leads to atrophy in the higher brain regions.” https://www.cognitiveliberty.org/5jcl/5JCL59.htm

          Is it the same with Shakespeare in the park? Or is that somehow “OK” because it’s live and in person and not recorded?

          Are movies bad too?

          Where are the studies showing that kids with restricted tv viewing time won’t end up brilliant and will have socially stunted lives because they can’t talk about the latest episode of The Simpsons? Is that really the sum of what we aspire for our kids? To be able to talk about tv shows and win Emmy’s? Sounds a little superficial, in my opinion.

          Nope, I don’t think most kids aspire to talk about The Simpsons. Around a water cooler. At a job they hate.

          I think most kids aspire to achieve their dreams, whatever they are.

        2. You can also have them watch a few informational shows if you don't like the idea of them having freedom of choice

      2. I think you are missing a big difference between reading, writing, and watching TV. Reading and writing require an active mind. TV is passive. Certainly, there are some classics movies and terrific TV shows. We can’t wait for Netflix to release Arrested Development, but being well entertained is not the same thing as actively learning. The other issue you might want to consider is cultivating your daughter’s attention span. Screen time will absolutely inhibit that. The only way to learn difficult subjects is a great attention span. Homeschooling is a great opportunity to develop that. The difference between my daughter and her home schooled peers who had unlimited screen time was night and day. I had a good friend who did what you’re doing and she deeply regretted it. In order for her children to learn how to read when they were 12 and 10 she had to take away all screen time.

        In our house, during school I had a list of things my daughter could not do. It was just a small list that included no tv, no computer, an no ds. We filled our days with lots of reading and wonderful activities. From seven on if she wasn’t interested in doing school, she had to clean right along with me. You can imagine how quickly she went back to doing school. Though she could clean a bathroom from top to bottom by the time she was 8. I think this important. Children should understand learning is a privilege. She is now 11, attending a magnate school, and willing to apply herself to her school work. I really miss having her home!

      3. Well, it’s seems that what a lot of comments are implying, or outright saying, is that the scholarship level of this article is low. It’s really ok that this is an opinion piece, but the point being made by many is that even op-eds have references to scholarly articles or studies to give some weight to the opinions therein. In this post, however, the references that back up your opinion are very misleading or simply missing.

        Your point here, and in your post, is that Mark Twain was a healthy guy who spent hours lying down in bed writing. Well, he also sat upright for hours on the top floor study of his Hartford, CT home and in his writing hut on his sister’s property in NY. In his NY hut Twain wrote some of his most famous work: large parts of Tom Sawyer, Prince and the Pauper, Life on the Mississippi, Huckleberry Finn and much, much more. Twain was also an inventor and spent a lot of time in the lab with his friend Nikolai Tesla. He had three inventions patented for his effort. As for Mark Twain being healthy, that is a topic that is rarely debated by Twain scholars since it is widely documented that Twain was very sick with (at times very severe) depression for most of his life. Why did he spent so much time lying down in bed? It’s called being bedridden.

        As you can see, I love Mark Twain. His writing is passionate, humorous and so freakin’ smart. His life was a mess but he kept coming out on top, at least for brief periods. Even his pen name has a depth of meaning that touches the soul. Here’s what I don’t like. You took one sentence off another blog post and turned it into a pseudo-reason for why kids can watch however much tv/screens they want. And, this is one example of something you do many, many times in your post. Belief and opinion are important, and help us to define who we are and how we raise our children. And understanding WHY we believe something and WHY we own the opinion we do is ever so much more important that just shouting our opinions to the wind. As someone who appreciates scholarship (and also has a degree in Early Childhood Education) I urge you to dig deeper into your thought processes, your opinions and your posts and to not settle for superficial writing in the future. I think Mark Twain would be on board with that.

        1. M. Smith, you wrote this comment almost a year ago, but I just wanted to say I really love what you wrote here. Thanks for commenting.

  8. My 3 year old is like my husband and would sit and watch tv all day if I let him. I think there is importance in limiting it so he can look at books and have me read them, put puzzles together, stack blocks, use his imagination to play with his dinosaurs and cars ect. There is a different type of neuropathway that is formed with hands-on play then when he sits and watches tv. Yes he learns from the shows I let him watch but I think there a re many ways children need to learn. If I did not limit his screen time that is all he would do. I even have to turn off my shows at times so he will go play! It’s what works for my family and I.

    1. @Gina

      My daughter does not ever watch TV all day long. Even though I let her do that if she wants, she doesn’t do it. She gets bored with it. She plays with her dolls for long stretches, she plays computer games, she goes outside to play, she plays washing dishes, etc. etc.

      I think if you give kids a chance to do whatever they want, you’ll be surprised that they don’t end up doing that they you’re afraid they’ll do all day long. Or maybe they will do it all day long for a while, maybe for a month straight, and then that will lead them to something else they are interested in.

      1. All kids are different. I have 2 kids. My son would sit all day long (and has done so) if I let him. He has truly need to be taught to enjoy the outdoors and how to have creative imaginitve play. My daughter on the other hand naturally gets bored after a while. Even if the tv is on- she will get up and go play. She is extremely creative and will play intently for hours on her own. My guess is your daughter is like mine. I just wanted to point out that children are different. What works for one, could be the downfall for another.

        1. I agree. My oldest would sit and watch TV ALL DAY LONG if I let him, and I have tried letting him have unrestricted TV time. He does not get bored and do other things. We have streaming Netflix and he will start one show after another for the whole day. No kidding. My middle son will get bored after and hour or so and go play outside or play with his toys or flip through books. TV obviously has a very different impact on them. For my oldest son it is highly addictive, and not in a good way. It negatively impacts his behavior and his mood, even more than the food we feed him does. He absolutely CANNOT have unlimited screen time because it is not healthy for him – he can’t self-regulate. My middle son would have no problem having unlimited screen time – he would be able to self-regulate with no problem. I think before you write another post generalizing what people should do with their children, you should maybe have more than one child or look at the ways it impacts children other than your own.

          1. I could not agree more w/ the above comments! I think parents with one very well-behaved, self-regulated child, it’s easy for them to think they are doing an awesome job (and they probably are – for THAT child). But when child 2, 3, 4 comes along and your parenting ‘tricks’ or style don’t seem to work, you realize how different your children can be. I know that happened w/ my parents. I was the perfect firstborn and they thought they were the most amazing parents. Then my sister came along … and my parents were immediately humbled. My sister and I are nothing alike. My 3 kids are nothing alike. Please do not be so quick to generalize.

            1. I think it’s so sad how we limit and control children.

              The “good” child. The “self-regulated” child.

              Maybe the “bad” child will be the super successful one who massively impacts the planet!

              1. Please do not put words in my mouth. I’m not talking about ‘bad’ kids or ‘good’ kids. But behavior. There’s a huge difference. Some kids know their limits. Some don’t. Just like adults.

                My point is that I don’t think you’ve personally experienced a child that has true behavioral problems after unlimited screen time. I have. And it’s not fun. For anyone. Including my child.

                I believe kids need boundaries. And it’s my job as a parent to provide them. I guess we’ll just agree to disagree on this one. No harm, no foul.

                I do appreciate you bringing this topic to light. Made me rethink what we do at our house. So thanks for that! 🙂

                1. <>
                  Or maybe they *do* know their limits, but their limits look nothing like yours.
                  Sometimes we find such children difficult to live with or accommodate, but that doesn’t mean we have to control them *more.*

      2. i started off thinking I would allow unlimited screen time following a radical unschooling philosophy. my son does watch tv all day if i allow it. he became extremely grumpy, didn’t want to eat regularly, and did not want to participate in any other activities. and i had never restricted television/movies before that. i don’t think you can compare reading or writing to watching television. there are plenty of subliminal messages in movies and television even if you don’t watch commercials. i can’t even filter these out, how could i expect a young child to do so? maybe this works for some kids, but it didn’t for mine.

  9. I think we also need to consider the fact that electronic media can be addictive in a way that other activities are not. If I didn’t limit my son’s video game time, he would play it all day long. And when on special occasions he is given free reign, it changes his personality. He becomes grumpy, easily angered, and just not very pleasant. I think we need to allow children to pursue their interests for sure, but we also have to protect them from activities that could become addictive and detrimental.

    1. I absolutely agree with this. The book Boys Adrift by Dr. Leonard Sax discusses how powerfully addictive video games can be, and dangerous, especially for boys.

      Here’s the Amazon link to the book, but I read it from my library.
      (https://www.amazon.com/Boys-Adrift-Epidemic-Unmotivated-Underachieving/dp/0465072100/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1346024998&sr=8-1&keywords=boys+adrift)

    2. This sounds like most adults I know (including myself) and their relationship to coffee. Just something to think about.

      Addiction to anything is a SYMPTOM. It is not caused by exposure. IF children are “addicted” to video games, it is a symptom of something in their environment. Figure out what that issue is and address it. You can’t cure a drug addict by limiting their access to drugs and telling them it’s not good for them.

  10. Sorry, but I think you’re way off base on this one, Ann Marie. My children are 21 and 24, college educated and have successful careers. Neither off them touched a computer, much less a cell phone until high school. I doubt they suffered any ill effects from the lack of technology. Also, I’m a long time school nurse. Obesity, and it effects, as well as attention and behavioral issues are absolutely a direct result of inactivity and too much unsupervised screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics is also now recognizing the effects of media exposure in children. Finally.
    We do our children an extreme disservice by putting our focus on their ability to manipulate today’s technologies. We need to instead, focus on helping them master their inner and outer worlds, imagination, emotions and senses. Children live in their limbs and are best taught through real world experiences. Seeing those pictures you have posted here is very sad, indeed. The “Zombie” children.

  11. Screen time or play time? More computers or more farms? It’s fine to allow your children to pursue their interests, but they are not going to get exposure to many different things if they are stuck in front of the screen all of the time. I spent most of my childhood in front of the TV and playing videogames….with parents who did not give me any structure. And it effed me up. Makes one totally ADD and obsessive with a feeling that there is no safety in the world. Each child is different and his or her needs will need to be addressed by the parents. I don’t think this one size fits all approach is smart or healthy. What is more important…training our children to be CEO’s of a future virtual reality world or training them to be good people with useful skills that can actually help humanity rather than drive it into some kind of transhumanism hell. I would really consider what you have written here. I don’t like to leave seemingly negative comments on anything, but I find your arguments to be poor at best. You cannot compare the adults of the past with the children of today. I am pretty shocked seeing as how you right about traditional foods and a more natural lifestyle. What is natural about computers and social media? What direction do we want to go in with our future? Technology and money or tradition and health? I can hardly control myself to stay off of the computer, let alone allowing a child to make that decision! I’m open to learning, but this seems like a complete contradiction to the lifestyle that you generally advocate.

    1. Screen time or play time? More computers or more farms?

      Why does it have to be one or the other?

      I spent most of my childhood in front of the TV and playing videogames….with parents who did not give me any structure.

      I don’t believe in zero structure. We do have structure. We get up, we make breakfast, we eat our meals together. Kate has chores and an allowance and all that jazz. We have park days and we have reading time.

      What is natural about computers and social media? What direction do we want to go in with our future? Technology and money or tradition and health?

      Seriously? Do you know how many lives are being impacted in a positive way thanks to blogs like this one?

      Technology and money are not separate from tradition and health.

      I can hardly control myself to stay off of the computer, let alone allowing a child to make that decision! I’m open to learning, but this seems like a complete contradiction to the lifestyle that you generally advocate.

      It may seem like it, but it is not.

      1. It has to be one or the other because you do NOT learn farming by playing Farmville or Sim City. You learn about it by reading, and by DOING.

        1. @Heather

          I agree. You learn by doing. Socrates taught the same thing.

          Not every kid is going to want to be a farmer. You can expose them to it and if they dig it (pardon the pun) then that’s awesome! But if they don’t, it’s important to respect that they may have other dreams they want to pursue that are just as valid.

          1. “Not every kid is going to want to be a farmer. You can expose them to it and if they dig it (pardon the pun) then that’s awesome! But if they don’t, it’s important to respect that they may have other dreams they want to pursue that are just as valid.”

            Funny how, when it comes to farming this is what you say, but that’s not what you are saying when it comes to people saying why they disagree about no limit for screen time. All in all, this article is for the most part deulsional. How do I know? I use to say this same thing at one time, when I thought unschooling was the answer.

            1. I don’t see any inconsistency with allowing a child to decide whether they’re interested in farming, and allowing them to decide how much screentime to take in.

    2. “What is natural about computers and social media? What direction do we want to go in with our future? Technology and money or tradition and health?”

      Is this a serious comment? It’s so ridiculous, that I can’t tell. Perhaps we should just return to living in caves, since that’s the most “natural” and “traditional” way of life there is. If you find technology to be so unnatural, I’m confused as to why you’re commenting on a blog in the first place. This dramatic romanticizing of “tradition” and what’s “natural” has really jumped the shark at this point.

    3. training our children to be CEO’s of a future virtual reality world or training them to be good people with useful skills that can actually help humanity rather than drive it into some kind of transhumanism hell.

      Computers can help change the world. I never would have found out about the WAPF if it were not for the internet.

      I would really consider what you have written here. I don’t like to leave seemingly negative comments on anything, but I find your arguments to be poor at best.

      Why? Tell me why my arguments are poor. Show me the evidence.

      You cannot compare the adults of the past with the children of today.

      If you watch the YouTube video I posted above on gamification, it actually proves that we are smarter today than in the past.

  12. I do limit screen time somewhat. My 3 year old son hasn’t learned how to use the mouse on our laptops yet, so I am mainly talking about TV. My main problem is the flashing images on the TV, not the fact that he is sitting for long amounts of time and not the actual content of the show. I read something a long time ago about how the way the TV flashes from one scene/view to another is bad for the brain because their brain starts to think that is normal. I can’t remember all the details. I like to watch my son watch home videos or clips other people have filmed on youtube, etc.

    1. Okay, I just have to chime in with another book recommendation. Endangered Minds by Jane Healy and her other books discuss how harmful the flashing images are for children’s brains (they wire them for short attention spans). She has a whole chapter on a study done with the show Sesame Street. I have read several of her books from our library as well. This sounds like what you’re talking about.
      (And yes, I do occasionally let my kids watch Sesame Street, but maybe more like 4 times a year instead of every day.)

  13. When I was little my father gave me my first computer, an old MS-DOS command line machine, and I learned skills that I still use in my computing job. My first new computer was Linux, which is important to know in IT.

    https://www.metafilter.com/117662/If-only-sudo-pick-up-your-toys-were-valid-syntax links to a bunch of good articles about giving your kids Linux/Command Line skills.

    My parents did have to limit my video game usage and I still have to limit myself in that respect. I am prone to addiction and video games are highly addictive stimuli. I imagine my children will have the same problem. My mother didn’t really have to do much though, we had a lot of activities scheduled and as long as we went to swim practice and went to bed at a decent hour, she was OK with us playing games. Also when you are a homeschooler you have so much more free time that I legitimately did grow up computer gaming AND playing outside.

    1. we had a lot of activities scheduled and as long as we went to swim practice and went to bed at a decent hour, she was OK with us playing games. Also when you are a homeschooler you have so much more free time that I legitimately did grow up computer gaming AND playing outside.

      Well said, Melissa! This is how we do it, too.

    2. Let me chime in with Melissa here … I’m also an IT professional, a programmer, one of the original Atari kids from the early eighties. I was home-schooled thru the second half of high school with a mix of college classes and tutoring. I started fooling around with mag tape calculators at 12 and got my first computer at 17, an Atari 400, which wasn’t a game machine, had BASIC installed in it. I played games on it though 🙂 … Mostly though I learned how to program. Games were very expensive and coding was more fun anyway :-).

      I’ve raised two boys now, the eldest attended public school and the youngest was home-schooled. To sum up my views on this complicated topic let me first say that all screen time is not equal. We encouraged certain kinds of screen time and discouraged others. We turned off the cable when the kids were small. We get poor reception so their TV viewing was mostly limited to DVD’s and Netflix. We owned very few game consoles while the boys were small, maybe one I think an old Nintendo system. Kid’s had to watch TV with the adults, so we’d watch all kinds of interesting movies together and talk about them, critique them together. There was only one TV.

      We did positively encourage time spent at a computer, however 🙂 We encouraged programming, video editing, photoshop, web page building, movie making, animation, You-Tubing, Facebook with friends from distant places, modifying and building your own computer, installing and configuring different operating systems, responsibility for maintaining the household network, fixing your own systems when you screwed something up, and yes PC based gaming. There were some fairly mild restrictions on gaming, like keeping teens from gaming into the wee hours, no purchases of first person shooters, etc. My homeschooler was not allowed game access till his brother got home from school 🙂 He could however make games and animations if he liked after his core work was done for the day.

      Now all this was in addition to regular schoolwork and extracurricular activities. My oldest was in the band and drum corp in middle/high school. The youngest acted in many plays put on thru a local theatre group that travelled to Texas wide conferences. All of these were self chosen activities. Some days were all about band, some all about a play, some all about making a movie, some all about building a computer and yes some were all about math :-). Once the activity was chosen, we just tried to help create some structure for the kid by saying core reading/writing/arithmetic first, like eating dinner before desert, then they spent huge amounts of time on their favorite activities, which usually included lots of computer activities. A child is awake 16 hours in a day … there is plenty of time.

      My eldest is a Computer Science major with about a years work left, the youngest aspires to be a movie director and had completely exhausted all the TV and film production classes available at the community college at age 17.

      From my experience as an Atari kid I can tell you that most people didn’t see much value in the things I was spending my time on. My son has told me on several occasions that adults at school seemed to view his computer time as a waste. I didn’t. And as a parent I can tell you I’ve taken some heat over the years for the amount of screen time they’ve had. People often don’t get that there are very constructive things you can do on a computer, even as a kid! But I can also tell you that many of my peers and my kids peers were playing games on game consoles and learned little or nothing about computers from that. The difference for me and my kids was that we had a REAL computers and not a game systems. Me and my kids were allowed complete freedom to control our own systems with all the annoying screw-ups that will inevitably follow ;-), and then learn from them. Each boy maintained his own computer.

      And, just a FYI, the salaries mentioned were on the radically high side. Maybe in silicon valley, but the range is considerably lower most everywhere else, roughly 50%. And the shortage of talent is largely hyped by companies that are offshoring and bringing in H1-B workers. There are still lots of talented college kids that are having trouble breaking into the business with no paid experience, and older tech people pushed out of the business as not having relevant experience when learning a new language/technology would make them relevant. And no, learning while you’re off the clock doesn’t cut it for most employers, they want on-the-job experience.
      So while there is still work out there it’s not exactly a gold rush :-). Much of the work in the industry is temp or freelance, which is cool with me, I like the flexibility, but not so cool to many others who prefer/must have permanent employment with paid benefits. Both perm and temp tech work have their difficulties … permanent tech jobs often come with very large time demands, making family life difficult to impossible, when they can be found. And temp work is of course intermittent, so there are many weeks in a year you don’t get a paycheck. Generally, you’ll work without benefits. So while it’s a exciting, interesting job for those that love technology, it’s not without its downside. I’d love to encourage those that love it to dive in with awareness, and those that don’t love it that it’s not a bed of roses that will make up for undertaking a career in something you don’t like doing.

      I don’t live in Peoria, instead Austin, but if you need help with your WordPress site feel free to email me 🙂 … I’d love to help!

    3. Yes, you CAN do both. I think many of the anti-screen commenters are missing that point, even Anne Marie mentioned it in several of her posts. Though we don’t limit screens, we provide so many other activities in a day or weeks time that it would be impossible for our children to literally sit and get absorbed all day every day. I do agree that all children are different and I’ve heard enough say that it negatively affects their children to believe that some are and those parents know their children best and should parent accordingly to the best of their ability. We can all only do our best with the information we have. My kids are older than most here, 9 & 11 and they do not show signs of negative behavior when they watch programs, though most of them are educational by choice and actually spark conversations or spark my son to do further research on a topic because it tickled his curiosity. Don’t see anything wrong with that. I love this article Anne Marie!
      T

  14. I agree with everyone else who has seen their older child be a complete zombie in front of the tv or video games, and I’ve seen them get in a completely horrible mood, so we do restrict it, and I’m completely happy with how it’s working in our house. There are so many facets to this (child’s age, interests, normal activity level, what they are actually watching (Sponge Bob?!)), that your generalization that if you limit screen time you’ll be consigning your child to a menial job is just extremely insulting. As if screen time is the only indicator of a whether a child will be a success or not! I completely agree with Margaret about your closing line being unnecessary and ridiculous.

    1. @Kerry

      I think Sponge Bob is a very entertaining show. I think I’ve seen every episode.

      And I bet you that anyone who is lucky enough to work on that show thanks their lucky stars every day. The guys I know who work on The Simpsons LOVE their jobs! Even my friend who works on the Dr. Phil Show is ecstatic that she has the position she does.

      I didn’t say that screen time guarantees success. I just said there are a lot more jobs in computers/media. Not every kid is going to want to work in TV or computers. But if that is their dream, who are we to limit them and squelch their dream?

      1. Again. What ages are we talking here? A 4 year old may love computers but for the majority of kids that is just because it is like a drug. I’m going to limit my 4 year old’s screen time to zero because I don’t see how her desire to use it can possibly have anything to do with what she chooses to do in the future. My daughter may like to drink wine but I’m not going to let her drink it because I fear squelching her future desire to own a bar.

        1. <>
          Many children in Europe drink wine/beer (I think some parents water it down a bit though). I don’t think many adult Europeans own bars, and I’m fairly certain their rate of alcoholism is less too.

  15. My husband IS one of those “Top paid engineers at some of the most venerable companies in the Valley like Google, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter can expect to earn an average salary of between $125,000 and $180,000 annually. Source: Forbes”, working for a much more venerable company than Facebook, and earning in the lower end of that range, but not at the bottom. What the quote neglects to point out is that you have to LIVE here to work here–and that income is barely enough to manage a reasonably middle class lifestyle with one parent at home–IF you’re okay with renting and with driving old cars (and I mean > than 10 years old). Hubs is one of the top guys in the country at exactly what he does…and, as soon as we can grubstake ourselves a place of our own again somewhere WAY more rural, he will gladly give it all up. In a heartbeat. We won’t be encouraging our kids to go into the I/T sector to make their livings. If they’re truly called to it, so be it, but better if they’re called to do something that doesn’t involve 90 hour weeks, frequent job changes, frequent periods as a contractor with no benefits, etc. Before you glorify the world of working in the I/T sector, find out what the downside is, ’cause it’s not really the great life the size of the paychecks make it out to be (and the same job not in Silly Valley will net about 60% as much paycheck–in keeping with the cost of living in such places)

    1. @Heather

      I don’t think that’s true anymore. We hire people all over the world to do graphic design, coding and other computer-related tasks for us. Skype is the great equalizer.

      1. Oh and by the way it’s REALLY hard to find good people! We struggle with this every day.

        We would much rather hire someone in Peoria who is great and can fix code and do great ad banners. They’d be cheaper, too.

        And of course, that’s why so many people are hiring people in the Philippines and India. Much cheaper cost of living. If I were 18, maybe I’d move to Costa Rica and start a web design shop.

    2. I would never live in Silicon Value. Too expensive. A lot of IT companies are in-sourcing to more rural areas so they can pay people less. I’ve telecommuted for most of my career.

  16. The issue is not the mere fact of using a screen, but (primarily) passive entertainment. Learning computer programming would not count as “screen time” in anyone’s mind who uses the term. This post seems to be based on a lot of straw men.

    1. @Tom Swanson

      Most (all?) great writers start out by reading. Reading is a very passive activity.

      Great film directors start out by watching movies. Lots and lots of them. Also a passive activity.

      Great soccer players watch soccer.

      I could go on but I think you get my point.

      1. Reading is not passive at all!

        And though great directors need to watch great films — and more power to them — they also need a whole lot of life experience to make great films.

        And no, great soccer players do not learn soccer by watching, but by doing.

        Watching TV is about the most passive thing you can do. I’d wager more even than sleeping — at least then your mind can dream.

        No one is staying (that I’ve read) that computers and videos and games are BAD. The overwhelming point is that too much time in front of a screen affects kids (and adults) negatively from a neurological point of view. I may have missed it, but have you addressed this major argument against unmitigated screen time?

        1. Reading is not passive at all, a person brings an inatimate object, the book to life.
          TV makes an inatimate thing seem lifelike. I don’t think all TV is bad, there are so many great films! I’m going to watch North by Northwest with my older kids next weekend.
          We went to a Shakespeare in the park play last week, it was awesome. One of the actors roamed the audience and helped himself to beer (one lady didn’t appreciate this!) and food, making it all a natural part of the show. I wished it wasn’t the last performance because all of the performances would have been different, partly because of who made up the audience. We made friends with people around us. This is how I imagined folks at the Globe, some probably not even there to watch the play but to find a pretty girl or eating and drinking in good company. Maybe a ballgame today (live not televised) would be similar. I don’t think going to a play is at all like watching TV. I’m not saying one is better than the other but rather that they are too differnt to compare.

      2. Reading is NOT a passive activity!! You are way off on that one. Watching a movie is. The imagination is put on hold when watching a movie. And again, what age are we talking?! A 12 year old who is passionate about learning about making movies is a completely different ball game from a 6 year old who is addicted to screens.

        1. Yes, reading has a totally different effect on the brain from TV. It’s actually an “active” activity, while TV is “passive.” You sit doing both, but reading requires more energy and thought. Research has shown this.

        2. @Jill Cruz

          Watching a movie or TV show is not necessarily a passive activity:

          https://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/24/magazine/24TV.html

          The imagination is put on hold when watching a movie.

          That is absurd! Movies inspire me and make me dream of new things.

          And again, what age are we talking?! A 12 year old who is passionate about learning about making movies is a completely different ball game from a 6 year old who is addicted to screens.

          Mozart composed music from the age of 5. Who are we to limit what a child can or cannot do at a specific age?

          1. I think you are confusing yourself with a child. Just because something works for you does not mean it will work for a child. It is not absurd either. The proof is in the pudding. I see plenty of Waldorf kids who have had limited screen time and I see plenty of kids who don’t. And there is a huge difference in the way they play, the clothes they wear, the vocabulary, the way they respond to adults and varying situations.

            As a parent it is absolutely my job to limit what my children do. To propose otherwise is quite bizarre. Mozart was brilliant and that would have been true whether he had been allowed to play the piano at 5 or 10.

          2. Regarding:

            https://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/24/magazine/24TV.html

            A couple of points. In this article, Steven Johnson argues that TV shows have gotten more complex and therefore they are good for the brain. He does a good job making the case that TV shows have become more complex, but from there he just jumps to the conclusion that that proves that TV is good for the brain. In other words Mr. Johnson provides no proof or evidence that TV is actually good for the brain.

            Steven Johnson makes the same argument in his very popular book “Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter”. I read that book, and in it he references a number of scientific studies. Not one of the scientific studies referenced were looking at the cognitive effects of TV viewing. Not one. They were all on the positive cognitive effects of playing video games, or on aggression and media. Steven John is a science writer, yet he was not able to find a single study that found that TV has any positive cognitive effects. I think that is pretty telling.

            Hundreds of studies have been done on the educational effects of TV (and definitely TV is very educational) but very few have been done on the cognitive effects. It’s shocking that so many studies have been done on cognitive effects of playing video games, but very few have been done on watching TV. Anyway, of the few studies that have been done on the cognitive effects of TV, the results have not shown positive results:

            https://articles.latimes.com/2011/sep/12/news/la-heb-spongebob-squarepants-children-brain-20110912

            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2848291/

            https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn11803-too-much-tv-may-result-in-academic-failure.html

            https://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=486063

            https://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=television-addiction-is-n-2002-02&page=1

            So I would definitely agree that playing video games can have a very positive cognitive effect. But so far, the evidence is that TV has a negative effect on cognition.

            Terry

  17. If I didnt limit my kids tv time they would be watching it all day long, like little zombies, staring at the screen, not hearing, not seeing anything else in life. They would not go outside to play to get the vitamin D, they would not go to sleep at bedtime, they would not do any writing or reading at all. So yes, I limit my childrens tv, computer time, because to have a healthy, normal child they need to do other things in life, which dont include staring at the tv screen for most of the day.

    1. oh and I forgot to mention the mental/physical effects the tv/computer have on little brains… like insomnia, phobia, and other not very good benefits that is for sure… there are tons of info online on it.

      1. @Lena

        I bet you that if you let them have unlimited TV time and computer time, most likely in the beginning they would watch/play obsessively, and then they would grow tired of it and find other things to do.

        Kate plays computer games and watches TV ’till 10 or 11 at night many nights. Never had a problem with insomnia. She sleeps like a log!

        And actually if you watch the YouTube video I posted above re: “gamification”, there is a lot of evidence that computer games are actually making us smarter.

        1. i posted above but wanted to say again that this was not the case for my son at all. he watched all day and lost interest in everything else. he didn’t want to go to park days or other activities. so if i allow him unlimited screen time, isn’t it his choice to stay home? we stayed home quite a bit. i have also seen this happen in several other families. also, i had never limited him before so this was not coming from a place of being restricted previously.

          curious about whether you allow your daughter to eat anything she wants, too? this goes hand in hand with unlimited screen time. even though i started following a radical unschooling philosophy, i now restrict screen time and food. i try to do this in as healthy way as possible. my husband and i decided to stop watching tv-we no longer have one so it’s not around to tempt them. i try to use the computer mostly at night when they are asleep. we also buy only foods that we believe are healthy and the kids can eat those foods whenever they want to and how much they want to. when we are out, they can eat whatever is served to them for the most part. i didn’t take them grocery shopping much when they were young so they wouldn’t see the junk out there, want it, and then feel restricted if i didn’t want them to have it. i do for the most part let them pick out foods they want when they are at the grocery store now while sometimes steering them to a healthier version. my kids are still very young, 7 and 4, so things will change i know as they get older.

        2. Haven’t you posted about how you’ve needed to lay with your daughter or she wouldnt be able to fall asleep? I’ll look it up later, but I’m quite sure ive read you describe her difficulty falling asleep.

          1. @Lynne

            She has zero difficulty falling asleep. She just likes to sleep with someone — she doesn’t like to be alone. And the problem is I am usually up late working and not ready to go to bed.

            Here’s how we have solved this problem: she now stays up and plays games or watches shows while I work. And she goes to bed easy if I lie down with her. Lately she is willing to go to bed with the cat instead of me. 😀 We also let her listen to Frog and Toad and other audiobooks in bed and play with her dolls and have quiet time.

  18. All depends on the child. Normally I agree with you Ann Marie on practically EVERYTHING, but Sebastian (2.5 yrs old) would zone out ALL day if he had the chance to. His cousin however (a girl) could care less whether its on or off so I would probably have a lax approach if she was my daughter. He plays with toys less, explores less, and uses his hands less when I start slipping on restricting the TV time. He just doesn’t know what to do with himself!!! Even playing outside he gets bored in 2 mins! All kids are very different – I think boys can be VERY obsessive over video games, excessive tv, and computers!! I think it speaks to their the male technical side but at what point is it too much??? I started letting him play with the older aged legos to feed into his technical side. There’s a reason men LOVE engineering!

    1. @christina

      Maybe he would zone out for a while — maybe a few days, maybe a month. Maybe a year. Maybe forever!!!

      But it would lead him to where he wants to go. It would open him up to his dreams. I truly believe that.

  19. While I am a bit undecided about limiting screen time for my own kids, I can say that growing up with 5 siblings my parents did not limit screen time at all and we played video games and watched tv whenever we wanted. I didn’t grow up to be a zombie or anything. I was involved in a lot of things at school, had friends, played outside a lot etc and ended up marrying a brilliant man and living a full life. So it doesn’t hurt that much.

    I do hesitate to introduce video games to my boys. And growing up t.v. shows ended and shows I didn’t want to watch came on. Now, it’s all netflix all the time. There are fewer barriers.

  20. I’m wondering if you really are not limiting screen time. Are you saying that if your daughter said she wanted to watch another show, and then another, and then more after dinner with a repeat of that the next day and the next – you allow it? You’re ok if she wanted to spend all her waking hours watching tv if she wanted to? You decided this a couple of weeks ago which isn’t much time, IMO, to try and stand behind a perspective on raising children. :: shrugs ::

    I don’t support unlimited screen time for the same reasons I make other choices for my children – they are not old enough or discerning enough to make right choices in many areas of life. I’m discerning enough to understand that too much screen time has to come at the expense of something else, be it relationships or learning life skills, to name two. Those who are built for exceptional creativity – your Bill Gates or Steve Jobs of today – usually those kids are noticed early on as having exceptional ability and are not the kids wasting hours playing video games or watching Simpsons for hours a day.

    I allow my 3yo to watch a few shows a week on Netflix but say “no” plenty of times in a given week and give him other ideas of what to do.

    1. @Alicia

      I’m wondering if you really are not limiting screen time. Are you saying that if your daughter said she wanted to watch another show, and then another, and then more after dinner with a repeat of that the next day and the next – you allow it?

      Yes.

      You’re ok if she wanted to spend all her waking hours watching tv if she wanted to?

      Yes. Maybe she will become the next Lorne Michaels or Aaron Sorkin. Or like her daddy, maybe she’ll win 2 Emmy awards.

      You decided this a couple of weeks ago which isn’t much time, IMO, to try and stand behind a perspective on raising children. :: shrugs ::

      Actually we have always had unlimited screen time. It was just a few weeks ago that I realized it was really OK and didn’t need to feel guilty about it anymore. Sorry I didn’t make that clear in my post.

      I don’t support unlimited screen time for the same reasons I make other choices for my children – they are not old enough or discerning enough to make right choices in many areas of life.

      Great point. I’m not deciding what is “right” for her. She gets to decide that.

      I’m discerning enough to understand that too much screen time has to come at the expense of something else, be it relationships or learning life skills, to name two. Those who are built for exceptional creativity – your Bill Gates or Steve Jobs of today – usually those kids are noticed early on as having exceptional ability and are not the kids wasting hours playing video games or watching Simpsons for hours a day.

      Hard to say. Some of our greatest geniuses seemed like they would never amount to much.

      For example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Kennedy_Toole

      If you haven’t read the Pulitzer Prize winning Confederacy of Dunces, I highly recommend it.

      John Kennedy Toole killed himself at 31 because everyone rejected him and probably told him he was wasting his time.

      1. “I’m wondering if you really are not limiting screen time. Are you saying that if your daughter said she wanted to watch another show, and then another, and then more after dinner with a repeat of that the next day and the next – you allow it?

        Yes.”

        So what if at bedtime, your daughter said, “I’d rather watch TV than sleep.” Or at dinner, she said, “I’d rather play on the computer than eat.” What if she asked you to cancel her play dates because she has a video game to play? And what if she did this all in one day? No eating, no sleeping, no friends – just screen time.

        If you have a schedule that includes activities away from screens, then you are not giving her “unlimited” time. You are merely saying that during her scheduled free time, she can watch TV if she wants and you won’t say no. This is not the same as she can watch TV as much as she wants 24×7 no matter what else is scheduled.

        Another thing I want to point out is that there is a difference between what someone loves to do and what someone is addicted to. To some kids, video games are entertainment and learning, and to some, they are addicting like a drug. If someone’s whole life was dedicated to getting that next heroine hit and it’s all they could think about, you would not say “they are just pursuing what they truly love.”

        We gave our 14 year old free reign over the summer with video games. He became addicted. He would turn them on as soon as the first sunlight came through his window, play all day until 2pm or 3 pm, come and get a snack and stuff it in his face as fast as he could (which was his first food of the day), then go back and play until midnight or later. Then he did it all over again the next day, and the next day, the next day. We now limit his video games, because of this. He was not able to self-regulate, because he was addicted.

        We also saw him exhibit other “addicted” behaviors, like getting into a physical panic when he couldn’t play, being “jittery” when he has to sit still (like in the car), rubbing his hands together, chewing his fingernails down to the nub, and not being able to go to sleep. He is not ADD and does not have Autism, and these behaviors went away when we drastically cut the video gaming time down.

        Having said all that, when he is not addicted to the games, he is a well-behaved (moreso than most 14 year old boys we know), polite, gracious, and adapts well to pretty much any social situation we put him in. He’s very smart, in several AP classes, and always gets A’s and B’s. We just have to manage his time where video games are concerned. I will also mention that we don’t limit TV or computer time. He self-regulates on those very well, which confirms for me the addictive nature of video games.

        1. @Karen

          So what if at bedtime, your daughter said, “I’d rather watch TV than sleep.” Or at dinner, she said, “I’d rather play on the computer than eat.” What if she asked you to cancel her play dates because she has a video game to play? And what if she did this all in one day? No eating, no sleeping, no friends – just screen time.

          Great question!

          Yes, if she wanted to stay home and play computers or watch TV all day, I would let her. She’s done that before and I have no problem with it.

          She often watches TV or plays games while she eats. I have no problem with that. I don’t let her take the computer to bed but I do let her listen to the Frog and Toad audiobook at night to fall asleep (it plays all night) and she also likes to fall asleep to Yo Gabba Gabba songs.

          She generally goes to bed when we go to bed. If we’re up late working, she goes to bed late. If we go to bed early, she goes to bed early. It’s not really an issue.

          If you have a schedule that includes activities away from screens, then you are not giving her “unlimited” time.

          We don’t go out and do anything she does not want to do. Oh sure I take her out to the grocery store and she doesn’t always want to go, but sometimes we have to do what we have to do. If I don’t have anyone to watch her, she comes with me. And even if she doesn’t feel like going at first, within 2 minutes, she’s good with it.

          She does martial arts twice a week but she committed to that. We talked to her, asked her if she wanted to get her green belt, and she said yes. So that is why she goes twice a week. She does it because she wants to.

          You are merely saying that during her scheduled free time, she can watch TV if she wants and you won’t say no. This is not the same as she can watch TV as much as she wants 24×7 no matter what else is scheduled.

          No she can pretty much watch TV anytime we are awake. Same with computer games.

          Once we start homeschooling in 2 weeks, we will start doing our reading in the mornings — which she is ASKING for. She wants to spend time reading, so we will do that. During that time we won’t have computers or TV.

          Another thing I want to point out is that there is a difference between what someone loves to do and what someone is addicted to. To some kids, video games are entertainment and learning, and to some, they are addicting like a drug. If someone’s whole life was dedicated to getting that next heroine hit and it’s all they could think about, you would not say “they are just pursuing what they truly love.”

          Most people I know who are very successful in their respective fields seem very “addicted” to what they are passionate about. Look at real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran (one of my idols), Steve Jobs, I could go on and on.

          What is wrong with passion? What is wrong with leaping out of bed in the morning and running to whatever it is you love? When I get out of bed, I go straight to my computer. My daughter wakes up and says, “Can you get me PBS Kids on my computer?”

          Maybe it just seems weird to most of us who are stuck in jobs we hate. We have no passion. We have forgotten what passion looks like and feels like.

          We gave our 14 year old free reign over the summer with video games. He became addicted. He would turn them on as soon as the first sunlight came through his window, play all day until 2pm or 3 pm, come and get a snack and stuff it in his face as fast as he could (which was his first food of the day), then go back and play until midnight or later. Then he did it all over again the next day, and the next day, the next day. We now limit his video games, because of this. He was not able to self-regulate, because he was addicted.

          Maybe if you left your son to do what he wants to do, he would invent the next Angry Birds game (a $1 billion franchise).

          1. Ann Marie,
            I don’t want my children to make an angry bird game. It does not make the world a better place. Isn’t that our job here on earth, to make the world a better place? What a waste of time. I could instead be writing an encouraging note to a friend, helping at a nursing home, reading a blog about health… All of these things make the world a better place. Playing angry birds does not help anybody or anything(it effects all ages). Why put that temptation out there for anybody to play angry birds? The argument isn’t that technology is bad. We need a marriage between tradition and technology. Too much one way is wrong. Whether it is too much tradition or too much technology.

            The following point is actually more important. A healthy person has a balance between being sympathetic and parasympathetic dominant. My son is sympathetic dominant. When he plays video games he becomes even more sympathetic dominant. This is not healthy. This is why you hear so many comments about “my boy is agressive and angry after playing video games.” I would guess that these parents also have boys who lean towards the unhealthy state of sympathetic dominance. It is kind of the same argument Natasha Campbell/McBride makes about vaccines. A healthy gut flora will help you out a whole bunch if you take vaccines and an unhealthy gut flora, when taking vaccines, is going to be a whole bunch of problems because of the overload. When children already lean towards sympathetic dominance, video games are the overload and will push them over the edge. The edge being, angry, agressive, short-tempered… Here is a great link to what sympathetic dominance is, if you haven’t heard about it. https://drlwilson.com/Articles/SYMPATHETIC%20DOMINANCE.htm After he is done playing video games, it takes him quite awhile to ‘come back down.’ The rest of us have to deal with him till he returns to normal. This actually reminds me of states of mind that are produced from eating unhealthy. We all agree that junk food creates an altered state of mind and agree that this is bad. Why would you allow an altered state of mind for video game junk food for the brain?

            1. @Kathy

              I don’t want my children to make an angry bird game. It does not make the world a better place. Isn’t that our job here on earth, to make the world a better place? What a waste of time.

              I’m sorry that you feel the need to decide what your child *should* do with his or her one and only life.

              I could instead be writing an encouraging note to a friend, helping at a nursing home, reading a blog about health… All of these things make the world a better place.

              Maybe that’s what YOU want to do with your life. But it may not be what your child wants to do. Who are you to judge?

              Playing angry birds does not help anybody or anything(it effects all ages). Why put that temptation out there for anybody to play angry birds?

              I love that game. I think it’s a lot of fun and have spent a number of hours being entertained by Angry Birds.

              If something makes someone — anyone — happy, I think it’s worthwhile.

              The argument isn’t that technology is bad. We need a marriage between tradition and technology. Too much one way is wrong. Whether it is too much tradition or too much technology.

              Agreed!

              The following point is actually more important. A healthy person has a balance between being sympathetic and parasympathetic dominant. My son is sympathetic dominant. When he plays video games he becomes even more sympathetic dominant. This is not healthy. This is why you hear so many comments about “my boy is agressive and angry after playing video games.” I would guess that these parents also have boys who lean towards the unhealthy state of sympathetic dominance.

              There are a lot of violet video games out there and I would not let my daughter play those.

              It is kind of the same argument Natasha Campbell/McBride makes about vaccines. A healthy gut flora will help you out a whole bunch if you take vaccines and an unhealthy gut flora, when taking vaccines, is going to be a whole bunch of problems because of the overload. When children already lean towards sympathetic dominance, video games are the overload and will push them over the edge. The edge being, angry, agressive, short-tempered… Here is a great link to what sympathetic dominance is, if you haven’t heard about it. https://drlwilson.com/Articles/SYMPATHETIC%20DOMINANCE.htm After he is done playing video games, it takes him quite awhile to ‘come back down.’ The rest of us have to deal with him till he returns to normal. This actually reminds me of states of mind that are produced from eating unhealthy. We all agree that junk food creates an altered state of mind and agree that this is bad. Why would you allow an altered state of mind for video game junk food for the brain?

              I don’t think all video games are that way. I think if you let your kid watch porn all day, then yeah, that would mess them up. Same with violent video games. We don’t allow our daughter to be exposed to those things.

              1. “I think if you let your kid watch porn all day, then yeah, that would mess them up. Same with violent video games. We don’t allow our daughter to be exposed to those things.”

                But what if she *wants* to? What if that is her passion? Why limit her here but not with a show like the Simpsons. Why do you choose there to draw the line?

                1. @ofthec

                  But what if she *wants* to? What if that is her passion? Why limit her here but not with a show like the Simpsons. Why do you choose there to draw the line?

                  We provide her with plenty of options to choose from. Porn is not one of them. We also don’t have junk food in the house.

                  Sandra Dodd said at the conference that it is the parents’ job to limit the options. Parents do protect kids and keep them safe. They don’t just let kids go live on the streets.

                  Within the options made available, my daughter can spend her time as she sees fit and feel free to explore the things she is interested in without me telling her those things are “bad” or “wrong” or “dangerous”.

              2. You can pretend you think any life your child chooses is ok, but you really don’t. A parent is responsible for the gentle guidance of the child’s individual passions and interests in a GOOD life and away from BAD life. For there is such a thing as good and bad. The question before any parent is if you 1) abandon your child to their own inexperience and immaturity to stumble through early life without any guidance, or 2) recognize the difference between childhood and parenthood and choose to be a good parent who actually parents, or a bad parent who abdicates their role.

                  1. Thanks for the feedback!

                    However, I don’t think one needs to think in only black and white to believe in real, objective good and bad. That’s just a straw man. There is a lot of subtlety to assessing ethical issues. But this does not mean it is “all relative”. There are plenty of things you prohibit your kids from doing. Violence is an obvious one.

                    Anyway, I am curious if you apply the same thinking to food? If your kids wanted to eat only hfcs-based candy all day long, would you let them? If they thought that was “good to them” would you object? Or try to guide their tastes in other directions?

          2. Those people who seem “addicted” to their fields and passions–how many of them have successful family lives? How many of them have balance in their lives? That’s one thing I strive to teach my kids, and that’s one big reason I’m attempting to teach them to control their time. It’s not that they get *no* screen time. But if they’re spending a lot of time on mere entertainment in a field they don’t have an aptitude for (like a tonedeaf child watching music videos for hours–NO chance they’ll ever be a professional musician) then they perhaps need to be exposed to some things they *do* have an aptitude for (same tonedeaf child perhaps is great with numbers and might be better off reading a book like The Number Devil and going to math competitions and watching videos on feats of engineering).

            1. @Tracey R

              But if they’re spending a lot of time on mere entertainment in a field they don’t have an aptitude for (like a tonedeaf child watching music videos for hours–NO chance they’ll ever be a professional musician) then they perhaps need to be exposed to some things they *do* have an aptitude for (same tonedeaf child perhaps is great with numbers and might be better off reading a book like The Number Devil and going to math competitions and watching videos on feats of engineering).

              Again, I do not feel it is my right to decide what my child is passionate about.

              Did you know there are a number of deaf musicians in the world?

              https://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/66719

              1. I didn’t say “deaf”. I said “tone deaf”. Being tone deaf means a person can’t distinguish between musical tones. You know those people who always sing off key? Them. I come from a musical family, and I married a guy who is so tone deaf he doesn’t even know what it means to be off key. People who have it are actually missing some physical equipment in their ears.

                1. @Tracey R

                  How do you know they are tone deaf? Were they tested? Was there a certificate?

                  Someone may say that a child doesn’t have “artistic ability” and that child may prove to be the next Picasso.

                  Do you know how many times that has happened in history?

                  I’m just saying, who are we to judge?

                  1. Good grief, really? Do you *know* what it sounds like when someone is attempting to sing along with the radio and misses by several tones? Do you really need to test to find that out?

                    But, since you seem to be requiring only experts to argue with you here, I have perfect pitch, as determined by my piano teacher, who was the music department chairman of a university. I started taking lessons from her at age 11. I just stopped singing with a rock band this year. I think I can tell if someone is able to sing along with music, and I can also hear if they’re attempting to harmonize with something new and not quite hitting it (because we did that in the band all the time as we were developing songs). That’s completely different than someone hitting a note on an instrument and asking a second person to sing that note and the second person dancing all around it and never hitting it. Or, like my husband, swearing he’s on key when he’s not at all on key.

                    If you don’t know the difference, like my husband doesn’t, then you may be tone deaf yourself. For some odd reason it doesn’t seem to affect hearing normal human vocal inflections in speaking, but it can actually be a major disability in societies where the language is tonal.

                    People judge this *all the time*. Witness American Idol. If you want an arena where tone deaf people can be musicians, perhaps someone will start a radio station where tone deaf people can do off-key covers of popular songs. There is a whole backlog of material from American Idol and America’s Got Talent for it to use.

                    1. I AM tone deaf. I sing horribly and was ridiculed by various members of my family for it (my mother and aunt among them). But I LOVE to sing. Singing makes me feel happy (and there have been studies that show that singing actually raises the level of feel-good hormones in your brain), BUT because I am embarrassed, because of what my mother and aunt said to me as a child, I have a hard time singing even when I am alone. I have to crank the volume up so I can’t hear myself otherwise I feel self-conscious and dont enjoy it anymore. How sad that a simple activity that gave me joy has been so ruined. I wanted to be a singer once as a child. Clearly that wouldn’t have worked out (which is fine, I wanted to be LOTS of things when I was a child) but singing still brought me joy, even if I wasn’t going to have a career out of it. And that’s been ruined for me by careless adults.

            2. “But if they’re spending a lot of time on mere entertainment in a field they don’t have an aptitude for…”

              There are a lot of commenters here who seem to feel as though they are entitled to determine what children’s aptitudes are, instead of permitting those children to figure it out for themselves. I find that outlook very sad and limiting.

              1. J – (and AnnMarie)
                Who has said that? I haven’t read one commentator saying they will determine their children’s dreams and aptitudes.

                At the most, I’ve read (and have written) that I will share my values with my kids, and will DIScourage them actively and passionately from chasing the almight dollar. I make absolutely no apology for that.

                I also have read no one saying they’d disuade a child interested in programing from programing.

                The idea that limits — not outright bans, just limits for pete’s sake! — on screens is bad or limits a person’s potential is just so silly : )

              2. If you had limited resources and multiple kids, would you not try to expose them to things more in line with their natural talents? In my example of tone deafness, because people who have it are actually lacking a physical structure, they *don’t even know* that their experience is different than other peoples’. Would you spends thousands a year on voice lessons (as my sis-in-law did) only to have your child’s hopes dashed in a very public way when you start taking your child around to auditions and get told very bluntly that your child can’t sing?

                Or would you see that amazing throwing arm and watch a few baseball movies and maybe go to a game and give that interest a chance to spark? Very few of us have unlimited resources. Especially when we have multiple kids needing those resources.

                I say this as a mother of two teens and a 7-year-old whose husband had a very good job before 2008, and whose family has been sliding downward financially ever since he lost it. Even so, we helped our older daughter make it to the finals of one of the most prestigious international ballet competitions *because she wanted to*. We helped our son take a chemistry class with a biochemist *because he wanted to*. We found an excellent tackle football team *because he wanted to* and we helped her become a cheerleader *because she wanted to*. Our walls are lined with books. We go to some kind of kid thing daily (besides practices), including all kinds of museums and events and tours. We have provided as many resources to explore as we’ve been able, and we drive many hours a week to the activities they want to participate in.

                I have never said *I* told my kids what their aptitudes were. It was obvious when my son came up to me at the age of 4 and said “Look! I put these 20 apples in 4 groups of 5, and even if I put them in 5 groups of 4 there are still 20!” that he has an aptitude for math. Our daughter would never stop dancing and even as a toddler people were asking us where she took lessons, before she’d ever had a lesson. And when she was age 4, a docent at a museum exhibit on drums said she had an amazing sense of rhythm. Our son could stand on his hands at age 3, so his physical abilities were really obvious. Our youngest started singing in harmony at age 3. We never taught them to do these things. And they have as much of our support in pursuing these things as we can give.

                My oldest wanted to take ballet lessons at his sister’s pre-pro ballet school. He is not the most graceful person, but we let him take them–for a year, when it became obvious to everyone that it wasn’t his thing.

                So congrats, if you have unlimited resources and time to help your kids pursue their interests. Most of us don’t, especially four years into the Great Recession.

                1. If you had limited resources and multiple kids, would you not try to expose them to things more in line with their natural talents?

                  I would not judge them. I would expose them to everything that was available and they could then have the choice to go after what they are passionate about.

                  It costs nothing to watch TV. If a kid is fascinated by American Idol and they love listening to music on the radio, and they love to sing, that’s a sign that that is their passion.

                  I say let them go for it. If it turns out that they fail miserably, then they might end up being a talent agent or running a music production company.

                  In my example of tone deafness, because people who have it are actually lacking a physical structure, they *don’t even know* that their experience is different than other peoples’. Would you spends thousands a year on voice lessons (as my sis-in-law did) only to have your child’s hopes dashed in a very public way when you start taking your child around to auditions and get told very bluntly that your child can’t sing?

                  If I had thousands of dollars to spend and the child wanted to do voice lessons, sure I would pay for them.

                  Or would you see that amazing throwing arm and watch a few baseball movies and maybe go to a game and give that interest a chance to spark? Very few of us have unlimited resources. Especially when we have multiple kids needing those resources.

                  I’d expose them to all of the above.

                  If I didn’t have the thousands of dollars, then the kid wouldn’t get them. he or she’d have to find another way to realize his/her dream.

                  I have never said *I* told my kids what their aptitudes were. It was obvious when my son came up to me at the age of 4 and said “Look! I put these 20 apples in 4 groups of 5, and even if I put them in 5 groups of 4 there are still 20!” that he has an aptitude for math. Our daughter would never stop dancing and even as a toddler people were asking us where she took lessons, before she’d ever had a lesson. And when she was age 4, a docent at a museum exhibit on drums said she had an amazing sense of rhythm. Our son could stand on his hands at age 3, so his physical abilities were really obvious. Our youngest started singing in harmony at age 3. We never taught them to do these things. And they have as much of our support in pursuing these things as we can give.

                  That’s great!

                  However, aptitude is different than interest. I am really good at lots of things, but I”m not interested in them. Ultimately it’s passion that drives you to create a career you love.

                  My oldest wanted to take ballet lessons at his sister’s pre-pro ballet school. He is not the most graceful person, but we let him take them–for a year, when it became obvious to everyone that it wasn’t his thing.

                  And I’m sure he learned a lot. I tried out for basketball in middle school — practiced for weeks. And I was awful at it. Other kids were so good at it and I sucked. I learned that sports is not my thing, no way no how.

                  So congrats, if you have unlimited resources and time to help your kids pursue their interests. Most of us don’t, especially four years into the Great Recession.

                  It’s not about having unlimited resources. I certainly do not have unlimited resources. It’s about exposing your children to all kinds of things. That’s one reason I like TV and games — they can explore these things at very little or no cost.

          3. I think it should be stated that addiction and passion are NOT the same. They are complete opposites. Addiction is destructive and passion is productive. People who are in alignment with their purpose and passion may have addictions but addictions do not make an individual successful in life. Addictions show a person where balance needs to be restored in their life. And if it balance is not restored, imbalance occurs which leads to dis-ease.

            1. @Nicole

              Great point!

              I’ve studied addiction theory quite a bit and what most experts today say is that addiction stems from a deeper problem that is psychological/emotional/even biochemical. The current thinking is that one can get addicted to anything — from work to sex to computers to love (see Love Addicts Anonymous), to food (Overeaters Anon) etc.

              Avoiding computers/limiting screentime to avoid computer addiction is like avoiding food/limiting food to avoid food addiction.

  21. My daughter is 5 and we have a TV time limit specifically because she’d sit in front of it all day watching the same loop of Disney Jr – however, by “treating” her with TV time extensions for movies, watching with us, etc. we at least have her watching a variety. She loves Star Wars movies, My Little Pony and the Food Network.
    We also have a desktop computer set up with a profile for her access. I installed filters and ad blockers, and set up bookmarks for the most common websites she wants to visit (Webkinz, Disney Jr, Magic Tree House, My Little Pony Wikia and the Star Wars Wookieepedia.) She plays games, researches characters and reports back to me constantly about what she’s discovered and her observations and conclusions about it.
    She also spends as much time as she wants outside riding her bike or scooter around. We have a large plot in our community garden that we’re tending. She makes up elaborate games involving balls, or cat toys, or whatever strikes her fancy. She definitely gets enough exercise (and is definitely NOT fat.)
    She attends public school, so this routine will change next week, but it has worked all summer and we have a healthy, happy girl on our hands. And yet, despite the fact that our child is incredibly smart, healthy and active, we have definitely gotten flak or been made to feel guilty over her screen time. Here’s to just letting them do what works!

  22. No…we don’t limit screen time.

    We don’t have to. If our kids are tired of watching, then they get up, shut it off, and go outside. Or find some Legos. Or ask for crayons and paper. Or…whatever it is they’d prefer to do. They do not sit in front of the TV and just zone out. Some days they do…if they are tired or not feeling well. But many times they just don’t. They find more interesting things to do than TV.

    Even so, they watch a fair amount. Every evening they watch “How It’s Made” with my husband. They love to see that and figure out how stuff works. Sometimes they climb on my lap and request Youtube videos about particular subjects. They’re not really old enough yet to use computer independently, but when they are, we will let them do so.

    My husband was homeschooled. Computers were his passion. He spent quite a lot of time reading and playing outdoors, too, but computers were his thing. He desperately wanted to learn programming and anything else he could about computers. He unfortunately had minimal help from his parents, who wanted him to follow the curriculum they had chosen. He learned basic programming and learned to build computers, but a lot of what he now knows he had to pick up in college and post-college because he was not allowed to do it as a teen. It would have been so helpful to him if he’d been able to follow his passion and his interests. His job now revolves around using computers in complicated and innovative ways. Imagine what more he could be doing had he been allowed the time to explore as a kid.

    Know your kid. Help them follow their passion…whether that means lots of screen time or not.

    1. @Kate

      We don’t have to. If our kids are tired of watching, then they get up, shut it off, and go outside.

      Ah what a breath of fresh air!

      YES! What a concept! Letting kids decide how they want to spend their time instead of mandating that they do what we think is right, and making them feel ashamed if what they want to do is not something we don’t approve of.

      What you said about your husband makes so much sense to me. If I had been unschooled and allowed to follow my passions, I’m certain I would have started a company when I was 18 (or earlier) and would not have waited until I was 40.

      Know your kid. Help them follow their passion…whether that means lots of screen time or not.

      Hear, hear!

    2. We do not limit screen time for our (homeschooled) children. My husband spent many years being told he would not amount to anything if he kept playing video games; he is now the director of one of the world’s most successful video game franchises. I am grateful to his mother for channeling his energy into a medium he loves.

      I, on the other hand, have two degrees in English Literature…and nothing to do with them!

      1. Haha Annie! So true!

        I was trying to decide whether to major in English Lit or Radio/TV/Film in college. I went with RTF because I knew there would be jobs. And there were! I made a beeline to Silicon Valley.

        It’s been too long. We need to plan a play date! We’ll come down to you!

  23. I think this is a “know your own child” sort of thing. Just as you are annoyed that anyone might tell you that your child will only ever sit and watch TV if you let her, it is silly to say that every family should allow unlimited screen time for their children. Some children will get bored of the TV in a short time and go do something else, some will literally sit all day for the rest of their lives in front of the TV if someone doesn’t intervene. My nephew was allowed to start playing video games at a fairly young age, and it negatively affected his ability to understand reality. He would often ask for things to be done in real life that could only be done in video games (like switching places with another character), and he thought that every rectangular object hanging on a wall was a TV screen. He is an example of a boy who would play video games endlessly if allowed to. He struggles with patience and paying attention. Limiting his video game time is essential for him to experience other types of play. Obviously, that doesn’t go for every child. I think you can make the stand that limiting screen time may not be necessary for every child, while still be gracious enough to admit that it might be necessary for some.

    1. not saying you are not right but my nephew did too at a young age and continues to now… he will be graduating this year in all honor classes. he is very responsible and has never had an issue.

  24. First, I will admit that I haven’t read the comments yet, so if this has already been said, my apologies.

    I think the issue is more about parental involvment and dialogue about the “screen time” that matters than actual hours logged, Know what your kids watch or play. Discuss scenarios that they see. We talk about violence, self advocacy, looking out for others (Power Rangers), pursuing your dreams and music (Victorious), best friends (Spongebob & Patrick), physical fitness (splat-a-lot) just to name a few examples. There is a big difference between putting on the “electronic babysitter” and using teachable moments.

    Also as for the the computer, similar rules apply. My kids are 9 & 6, we use parental controls and my 9 year old has to ask before she uses google (6 wouldn’t know how….yet). There are several websites that are “pre-approved” and have links on the desktop. The screen faces us where we sit/work.

    Screen time isn’t the devil but just like anything else in parenting, we need to be involved.

    1. Having re-read my post, I’d also like to add that as parents it is our job to expose our kids to as much as we can. LOTS of scenarios. If that includes tv/computers who am I to decide, as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of them having he opportunity to experience and try and do other things too.

    2. @Beth

      What a wonderful comment.

      I agree so much with this point: “Screen time isn’t the devil but just like anything else in parenting, we need to be involved.”

      I have always felt that children keep you young. That is, IF you allow yourself to be a part of THEIR world. We laugh at Sponge Bob together, sing the songs from Yo Gabba Gabba, and we listen to audiobooks.

      When I quoted that line from Madagascar 3 last week with Kate and my 2 nieces, “Don’t shut me out, baby!” they all laughed so hard. They kept quoting it all week on our vacation.

      Sandra Dodd makes the point that TV and movies and computers games really do help kids and parents bond and connect. I agree (obviously!).

      1. I’d also like to add that as parents it is our job to expose our kids to as much as we can. LOTS of scenarios.

        TOTALLY agree!

        Kate is just getting to be old enough to start going to Shakespeare in the park. And we love museums!

        We took her and her cousins (my sister’s fabulous idea) on an awesome wagon ride in silver mining country in Sun Valley, Idaho. What a wonderful experience! (Look for the blog post coming this week or next.)

        Now I am inspired to read “Roughing It” by Mark Twain. I just downloaded the first 3 chapters. I’m going to read it to Kate and next summer we’re going back to do a horseback ride up the mountain and tour the mines.

        1. “When I quoted that line from Madagascar 3 last week with Kate and my 2 nieces, “Don’t shut me out, baby!” they all laughed so hard. They kept quoting it all week on our vacation.”

          Polka-dot, polka-dot, circus afro. 🙂

          1. LOL!!! HAHAHAHA!

            You see how we just bonded over a movie?

            That’s all I’m saying.

            Now if you called me up and asked me to let you do a sales presentation or asked me for a favor, I’d be a LOT more likely to give you shot.

            Movies and TV and games really do help people bond.

      2. Tv/movies are the *only* bond I share with my mother. period. if not for that, we’d have nothing.

        I’m grateful for that tiny little bit of something, even if I wish she could have given me more. (def. not the tv’s fault, my mom suffered from an array of psychological issues)

  25. Here is some research you may or may not be interested in regarding screen time and young children. I believe all parents do what they feel is best for their children. I am not offering judgement, just thought I might offer some additional information. Blessings to you and your family.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoT7qH_uVNo&feature=share

    1. Oh, this is interesting.

      My husband and I read a book called Brain Rules for Baby, written by a neuroscientist, and it had a whole section about screen time, basically reaching the same sorts of conclusions as this guy does.

  26. I read this post earlier today because the title made me curious. I have been digesting the information and still struggle to agree with this. Kids are still kids and don’t have the discipline or judgement that we have as adults do or should have. Also, I have been around many kids (including my own) and notice their personality changes after screen time. They become more aggressive, easily agitated and less creative. They expect to be spoon fed entertainment. Most kids will not walk away even when bored. It is something to mindlessly stare at.

    I also feel that this could be compared to letting our kids eat what they want, and we all know where that would go. They just don’t have the judgement and that’s why parents are there to direct them.

    1. With all due respect Ann Katherine, …My children have stringent limits, but we provide choice within those. I would much rather my child make a good informed decision on her/his own than out of fear of repercussion. I would rather my child understand *why* a decision was not a good one than “my way or the highway…” to only get out in society in 10 years and not have a clue what to do. I don’t think having limits and giving children opprtunity & choice to learn need to be mutually exclusive.

  27. I don’t let my kids play on the computer and we don’t have a TV. I have a 5, 4, and 2 year old. I did let them do some preschool games and stuff on the computer but it made them whiny and they were constantly begging to be on it. And when anything went wrong, they clicked the wrong thing, or the computer acted up, they flipped out hollering for help. When I told them it was time to get off they would flip out and holler and beg for more… So we quit cold turkey, that was probably close to a year ago. They are much happier kids for it, they spend most of their time outside whenever possible, we live on a farm so that’s easy. They love to read, well, look at books, and spend hours drawing pictures, or just entertaining themselves. I feel that kids, without the screen, are much more capable of entertaining themselves and are much less needy. I personally hate television and always have, I grew up in a tv-less and computer-less house and loved it and don’t feel any the worse for it. They are addictive and most often a complete waste of time.

    1. Oh, and I should add, I was homeschooled, and am homeschooling my children. I spent my young life learning instead of staring at a screen, and graduated college at 19 with honors. My husband grew up in a house that didn’t limit TV and he still struggles with TV addiction, wasting too much time watching shows on the computer.

  28. You are just living by the edge of your seat! First Foie Gras now unlimited screen time! {giggle}

    We educate at home. And my daughter (7.5, 2nd grade) has unlimited screen time. Before we became OK with it it was always a fight to get off the computer, turn the tv off, etc. But now that it’s *her choice* I am surprised at how well she is handling it. In fact I have caught her with chapter books more now than before, she seems to have more play time now than before. She knows she can go to the tv or computer when she wants. She isn’t trying to hoard it all in in one sitting.

    I love that the decision-making SKILL is being taught this way. I am a hands on learner as is my daughter. This is the easiest way I know how to teach her. Her time management is getting to be pretty darned good for a 7.5 year old!

    I am a “pick your battles” kind of a mom. Screen time was always a battle. Now it’s not. Win-win!

    1. @Bobbi

      You are just living by the edge of your seat! First Foie Gras now unlimited screen time! {giggle}

      LOL!!!!!!

      We educate at home. And my daughter (7.5, 2nd grade) has unlimited screen time. Before we became OK with it it was always a fight to get off the computer, turn the tv off, etc. But now that it’s *her choice* I am surprised at how well she is handling it. In fact I have caught her with chapter books more now than before, she seems to have more play time now than before. She knows she can go to the tv or computer when she wants. She isn’t trying to hoard it all in in one sitting.

      I love that the decision-making SKILL is being taught this way. I am a hands on learner as is my daughter. This is the easiest way I know how to teach her. Her time management is getting to be pretty darned good for a 7.5 year old!

      You could have written this post better than I did. You covered two points I neglected:

      (1) The whole thing about fighting over computers/TV. What a waste of time and energy. Let’s let our kids decide.

      (2) Letting our kids LEARN how to make decisions. SO important! Today I was teaching Kate how to make pancakes. She could not learn how to flip pancakes without actually flipping pancakes. What a concept! So how can kids learn how to make decisions without, yep, you guessed it, being able to make decisions.

      1. @Anne Marie

        Our family is busy living life. We live on a small farm, we work FT outside the home, we do school, we spend time cooking in a traditional manner, we have game night, etc. It’s not as if we just sit on our behinds all day where the tv/computer are the only choice of entertainment. My daughter is far from fat, she makes healthy food choices, she loves school, she plays with friends, but she also watches tv and plays on the computer. If we don’t teach our children now how to make choices it’s going to be a lot harder when they are older. Kind of like the teenager who doesn’t know how to make a piece of toast or do laundry! Teaching our kids is our job. If we do everything for them how will they learn?

        We have done the “no tv” route. That was pretty good too. Again, tv/computers aren’t our sole forms of entertainment. Although *I* am on the computer far more than anyone else in the family!! lol

  29. I think each kid is different. I don’t totally limit as my older son (5) is seeming to move in the direction of his dad (drafter and some web design) and my nephew (graduating this year and heading into game design) I do limit somewhat as kids are learning their limits. I mean really… set a plate of doughnuts in front of them or let them go out without a coat and … sometimes they learn and sometimes they don’t but thats why they have parents. I can tell when its been too much… there will be crabbiness and lethary and maybe eye strain. We know this because we as adults do the same at times and feel horrible after. getting them out and about gives them perspective that they will not get staring at a screen non stop. That being said I ENCOURAGE the use of games on the PS3 that have problems to solve and are challenging… or shows that are based around learning or are made in a way that would enhance his curiosity of discovering to make or create new things (think the newer transformer movies and such) He watches very little nickelodean and such though. most of it its mindless garbage that talks in circles. at least give the kids a story line! sheesh! He loves to act out movies, he loves PBS kids and ABCMouse.com, he loves Lego video games and DS Games, he writes stories and cartoons in notebooks nonstop and he has written a song with Daddy’s help on Daddy’s music software. Balance is the key.

  30. Another controversial post!! I was wondering have you heard of the book “The Plug-in Drug”??? It’s all about tv and different studies done on tv. According to this book the brain activity when watchin tv is at the same level as when asleep! So when our kids are spending hours in front of the tv they are literally doing NOTHING. They are getting zero exercise, physically or mentally. I know myself that when my kids watch too much tv their appetites and their sleep are effected. How many kids in our culture don’t sleep or eat well??? The times I have spent outdoors at my parents farm their appetites and sleep have improved dramatically!
    I know when I grew up we had unlimited telly. I hated it. My childhood memories are of different tv shows. I did not have the power to pull myself away and make my own fun. I have always thought this, I am not just saying this to be contrary!!! I wish my parents had of limited tv and stimulated us in other ways.
    Also, my friend has recently read studies that show that kids these days are much less able to problem solve. Apparently exessive screen time actually changes the brains pathways and our children now can only think more and more in the short term. I actually concur with this. My husband is a secondary teacher and we are both stunned at the poor standard of kid’s schoolwork these days. We are talking a massive drop in standard in less than one generation!! What has lead to this???? Perhaps unlimited screen time?
    Also I know of personal examples like our neighbours’ kid who we virtually haven’t seen for four years because he got an x-box. He used to come out and kick the footy with my boys. I think that is sad.
    I am not against screen time, in fact I am pretty lax with it but I think unlimited is dangerous for some kids. We got our first tv when my twins were two. One would watch for half an hour and then wander off. The other would watch for hours and then scream when we turned it off. Perhaps you have been extremely lucky to have a kid with a certain nature that is not prone to screen-addiction???
    I agree with what you’re saying about letting kids be kids and not trying to discern their individual futures according to our whims, but I think that screens are questionable. Also, don’t they emit certain radioactive waves that are less than desirable???

    1. I agree about the drug-like affect of TV – have you read this?https://www.familyresource.com/lifestyles/mental-environment/television-opiate-of-the-masses
      I would also question any amount of screen time for children under six, for the sheer fact that children under six learn through concrete things – through doing, moving, manipulating – and through their sensory explorations. Computers at that point are better than TV, because at least they are mildly interactive, but they still have very limited sensory experiences. TV is not interactive at all, because even the “interactive shows” for children respond the same way regardless of what the viewer does or says.As for sensory experiences, with both TV and computers/game systems there is no smell, taste, texture, weight, etc. Only the visual and auditory systems are stimulated.
      As children get older, after age 5-6, they can learn through more abstract methods… and at that point I think technology does have a place. But before that, any time they spend not manipulating things and having varied sensory experiences is wasted in terms of learning.

  31. Watching Little House in the Prairie everyday after school as a child gave me a path in life. Watching family sitcoms gave me longing for an intact family I never had as an only child of a single mother who worked evenings and left me home alone. The background noise of the tv was my company during all of my childhood. Pathetic, huh? It all worked out for good because even as a child my motives for watching tv were pure!
    I am now a mother of 6 and doing things as naturally and holistically as I can. My kids are homeschooled and we enjoy tv together. My husband plays video games along side our children. They read and do math above their age levels. They love to be outside. There is plenty of time on the evenings to do things with screens after being outside during the day.
    I believe that family structure has a lot to do with it. I don’t think each person going to a different corner of the house doing their own thing for hours of the day is beneficial. But sometimes people need to zone out. And more often than that, the content we watch on tv spurs some very intelligent conversation.
    I’ve experienced that dumbed down tv shows though are not always great influences. Sesame Street sets my two year off in such a way that she acts like an uncontrollable muppet. Just like not all food is good for everyone, so too each child needs to be guided by their parents according to what is good for them. Scary movies will make one have nightmares. Another laughs at them. Just like one is gluten free and another is not.
    Placing limits makes things so legalistic. Finding the balance is so much nicer… But requires much more parental involvement. That is too much to ask ofany parents today. They don’t want to be bothered.

  32. My 3 year old can read because of Your Baby Can Read DVD’s from the age of 9 months. And the shows on PBS like Super Why and Sid the Science Kid are really teaching her and my 1 year old so much. I really think they are valuable and if parents are involved and not exposing them to the junk it’s pretty healthy. I’m trying to find good educational video games my 3 year old could play if you have any recommendations 🙂

  33. This may just be the sort of thing where we as parents need to be in tune with our children’s needs. Reading the article only makes me feel stronger about limiting my child’s screen time. TV makes him cranky and zaps the creativity out of him. He may be getting something positive out of it but the negative clearly outweighs it in his case. He’s only four, but I can see he’s very bright and as lots of interests. I don’t plan to stop him from pursuing his interests.

  34. Bravo! Love this post. I discovered Unschooling 16 months ago (I too thought it was for radical, lazy parents) and I am convinced it’s working.
    I’ve got a son who is 16 and spendsen at many hours a day on a computer. He does play games, but as he’s gotten older, he spends his time learning programming, web design , web hosting and such. He also created a program, sold it, and made enough money to build himself a top of the line computer from scratch. This is a kid who started out just playing games and that has developed into a wonderful talent!
    My other children aren’t really limited on computer time either, but they don’t really care to use it much. My daughters saved money and bought their own ipod touches and got email accounts. They are now wonderful spellers and have finally learned to type for the first time. Emailing their friends puts pressure on them to spell correctly. It also traches them how to communicate properly through writing. They text me all the time with sweet little notes. Love that! From there, they began using their iPods to create videos and purchased free apps that help edit. They have created the funniest videos with their friends. One is a short movie! I am amazed at their creativity.
    My younger children are now working On basics, math and reading at their pace. They now approach me when they want to learn something instead of me forcing things into them and nothing ever “sticking”. When you step outside of the box, the whole world becomes your classroom! My children ate learning just fine but it’s at their pace. I’m just following their lead 🙂

    1. I forgot to mention that none of our children are obese and all have tans from outside time and swimming. We all know that crap food is what causes obesity and not inactivity.

  35. I’m going to break with the group here and disagree with you – but not on screen time :). The ‘world wide web’ did exist in 1995. I was fortunate to be part of it, and it changed my world in ways I could never even have imagined.

  36. HI Anne Marie, you have some very good points, and I’m very interested to hear more on this subject. I guess I can see both sides of the argument. I know two men in their early twenties. They are brothers. The older one is married. He is a computer tech, and a complete computer genious – smarter and tech savvier than anyone else I know. But he’s also a video game addict. He goes to work, comes home and plays games all night, sleeps all morning, gets up and plays more games, and then goes to work. He spends next to no time with his family and is missing out on his little girl growing up. He’s so rediculously smart and talented but is doing nothing to further himself, his family, or his career because all he cares about are video games. His younger brother is the same way, but he’s single. He is still living at home, working part time, won’t do his laundry or help around the house, shuts himself in his room all day and games. He wants to be a video game designer, but won’t go to school, get a second job, doesn’t even have friends or interact with his family because he is so addicted.

    The number one regret these men’s parents have is not limiting screen time. So I guess what I’m saying is, I agree with you about letting your kids do whatever they’re interested in – I agree that the more hours the better. These guys are SMART and could be billionares if they wanted to. But when it comes to computers/TV you also have a mind-numbing addictive quality that can totally take over people’s lives. I guess I”m not really sure how to draw the line between the two.

    What are your thoughts on this aspect of it? Thanks for posting!

    1. Hi, Annie

      The older one is married. He is a computer tech, and a complete computer genious – smarter and tech savvier than anyone else I know. But he’s also a video game addict. He goes to work, comes home and plays games all night, sleeps all morning, gets up and plays more games, and then goes to work.

      Maybe he should become a game designer (or something in that industry), and not work at a job that does not allow him to play games.

      He spends next to no time with his family and is missing out on his little girl growing up. He’s so rediculously smart and talented but is doing nothing to further himself, his family, or his career because all he cares about are video games. His younger brother is the same way, but he’s single. He is still living at home, working part time, won’t do his laundry or help around the house, shuts himself in his room all day and games. He wants to be a video game designer, but won’t go to school, get a second job, doesn’t even have friends or interact with his family because he is so addicted.

      Funny how you label it as an “addiction”. As if it is a bad thing.

      Maybe if these men were able to do what they love for a living, they would have more time for family and friends.

      I don’t know them so what do I know?

      The number one regret these men’s parents have is not limiting screen time. So I guess what I’m saying is, I agree with you about letting your kids do whatever they’re interested in – I agree that the more hours the better. These guys are SMART and could be billionares if they wanted to.

      So why aren’t they? Are there other things holding them back? Emotional issues?

      But when it comes to computers/TV you also have a mind-numbing addictive quality that can totally take over people’s lives. I guess I”m not really sure how to draw the line between the two.

      I don’t buy that. You act as though video games are evil and have the power to rule people. Don’t buy it.

      If a man doesn’t make the effort to spend time with his family or friends, why do we blame video games? They could also be addicted to alcohol or drugs or sex or work. Same issue. The root problem is the same, they just act it out differently. The root problem is likely something completely unrelated to video games.

  37. although I do not believe obesity is necessarily caused by too much tv or computer time parents still need to exercise…
    common sense
    &
    balance
    &
    discernment.

    “unlimited” of anything can be an issue down the road.

    know thy child.

  38. As a homeschooling teacher, I have some big opinions about screen time and unschooling. I am not an expert on either, but I see their effects when students come to me at the high school level. The unschooling movement began before the massive availability of “screens”, (there were very low tech video games, fewer T.V. programs, no internet, etc). In the beginning of unschooling, it was refreshing to let students guide their learning, to delve deep into subjects of their choosing. With the internet and video games, however, kids aren’t spending their time doing redeeming, educational activities, and they aren’t learning the academic material that they will need in college. When given a choice about how to spend their time, before the recent onslaught of technology, unschooled kids would chose to be creative or to learn all there is to know about a subject. These days it’s too easy to turn to screens as “entertainment” instead of education. Screens have made it easy for unschooling students to fall far behind. I’ve seen successful unschooling with very involved parents and motivated kids, and limited screen time. I’ve also seen high schoolers who can barely read, who have such low math skills that they qualify for special education, who have no idea how to learn new information or communicate what they do know. These are “typical” kids who are just very undereducated, who then are terrified by the amount that they need to learn to catch up.
    There are many stories bandied about in the homeschooling world about outstanding and successful students who got interested, for instance, in coffee at a young age, were roasting their own blends by their teens, and are now corporate coffee gurus. (Your computer-programming stories reminded me of this.) There are many more, I believe, unfortunate kids who get through their unschooling without the necessary skills to become active, contributing members of society. I know many unschooling students who have technically graduated from high school who live with and off their parents, with few career opportunities available to them.
    I wish you great success in your unschooling, and believe you will do it well. It is a great way to be educated with parents who are invested and able to guide their child. And it is interesting to me that anyone would champion more screen time, with the hoards of research about how negatively it affects people.

  39. Actually it’s not that the topics on tv are worse than reading books…at least, from what I’ve read, it’s the way the brain responds to electronic media. Supposedly it increases the likelihood of ADD, even. So, while I use the computer quite a bit, and have nothing against it per se, I’m not sure it (or the tv) is healthy for kids’ developing brains. You gotta admit, kids are a lot less active and more overweight. Reading books seems to require more effort, and therefore is not as likely to be addictive. It is not as passive as watching tv. Now, actually programming computers is a little different!
    You can’t say that all of the kids who are spending so much time on tv and computers are going to be brilliant programmers. If you do have a child who is especially gifted and really loves it, that’s one thing. But I don’t think that’s what’s really happening in America!
    As for socializing, I guess we might have a different definition of that. The computer rarely increases real, intimate relationships. Not saying never, and I do use Facebook, etc. and I love it for that. But it doesn’t replace hanging out.
    Just some points that I didn’t think were addressed.

    1. I totally agree with this. Technology is here to stay, but it is not a requirement to allow it to dominate.
      Reading is implicit, whereas watching is explicit. I have gravitated towards screen time being a reading/learning time with a small amount of watching.

  40. What this argument was notably lacking was the science behind the physiological effects of tv in the nervous system and brain in particular. And the fact that cortisol is pumping thru the body, which of course is the precursor to inflammation and all disease. Why bother with an anti-inflammatory diet? And read up in last months newsweek, the icrazy article where cat scans of video game addicts is the same as that if an alcoholic and other drug addicts. Look at the science. I doubt any parent would feel proud of their child’s cat scans with screen induced brain damage, increase for future addictions, depression, psychosis, seizures or a larger than normal aggression center in the brain… This is the effect INDEPENDENT of content. Bad content is just lemon juice in a cut.

    1. Is this the article you are referring to?

      https://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/07/08/is-the-internet-making-us-crazy-what-the-new-research-says.html

  41. Hi Ann Marie! I agree with most of what you have to say. I also allow my boys a ton of screen time. I use a lot of learning games to help with my homeschooling. I do tend to unschool, allowing them to play learning games when they want to for as long as they want to, but I also let them watch a bunch of cartoons. For the most part, I watch cartoons with them; that way, if any thing is said that I take issue with – such as the episode of Tiny Toons in which Hamilton talks about how much he likes his “fully pasteurized and homogenized” milk, or the movie Over the Hedge in which the raccoon played by Bruce Willis talks about how awesome chips are because they have MSG in them – I am able to stop the show and explain why the comment is bad in my opinion.

    I would NEVER let my boys watch the Simpsons! As much as I feel the show has a basically good theme of tolerance and acceptance, I feel that it is a cartoon aimed at adults, NOT children. If they want to watch it when they are older and can better recognize that it is mostly satire, then they can watch it all they want. To clarify, I am not against the Simpsons in general. I do find the show entertaining 🙂

    My big problem with giving them unlimited access to screen time is that they don’t want to put in the time and effort of actually learning to read. They are only 7 and 5, so I am giving them time to grow into it and learn at their own pace, but I am seriously afraid that my older son will refuse to learn to read altogether if I don’t force him at some point.

    The other concern I have is this: me. I was one of those that went to my room to read, going outside as little as possible while growing up. I put in my 10,000 hours reading and writing. I consider myself an expert without a degree at writing and editing. (More fiction writing than technical, because that is where MY passion lies 🙂 )

    This should be a good thing. This should be an indication that I have an awesome career in writing or perhaps editing for others, but I am not a good sales person, therefore I am not good at selling my books. I continue to follow my passion and my dreams, but they do not put food on the table, so I am a “burden” on the government and taxpayers.

    And that is why I also disagree a little bit with what you are saying. I do believe that everyone should follow their own path, including children, but I also believe that sometimes a parent should force their children to learn things they might not want to. If a child wants to do nothing but play games, they should also be given a pet or a garden or something to teach them responsibility.

    I think every child should have to learn a craft such as sewing or farming – so that if they aren’t successful at their chosen loves – such as playing video games – they can at least grow their own food or make their own clothes to save money and take care of themselves.

    I believe that there should be a balance.

    Thanks for writing this post! I love reading about “unconventional” parenting 🙂
    Have a happy day,
    Roxanne Packard
    P.S. look for me on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Roxanne+Packard

    1. @Roxanne

      I love reading about “unconventional” parenting, too. And writing about it! And of course, doing it.

      I would NEVER let my boys watch the Simpsons! As much as I feel the show has a basically good theme of tolerance and acceptance, I feel that it is a cartoon aimed at adults, NOT children. If they want to watch it when they are older and can better recognize that it is mostly satire, then they can watch it all they want. To clarify, I am not against the Simpsons in general. I do find the show entertaining 🙂

      Shakespeare is aimed at adults, too. It’s full of filthy, dirty passages (“bawdy” Shakespeare). For example, The Taming of the Shrew (look up what the word Kate means).

      That said, we are starting on Shakespeare in kindergarten.

      I personally believe that The Simpsons is just as rich, just as intelligent, and just as entertaining as Shakespeare.

      My big problem with giving them unlimited access to screen time is that they don’t want to put in the time and effort of actually learning to read. They are only 7 and 5, so I am giving them time to grow into it and learn at their own pace, but I am seriously afraid that my older son will refuse to learn to read altogether if I don’t force him at some point.

      Force him and he will despise reading for the rest of his life. Like most adults. Most adults read less than 1 book per year. Because they were forced.

      Instead, why not let him find what interests him and find his own path to reading? Let him follow his bliss. If he wants something bad enough and is curious enough, he will read.

      The other concern I have is this: me. I was one of those that went to my room to read, going outside as little as possible while growing up. I put in my 10,000 hours reading and writing. I consider myself an expert without a degree at writing and editing. (More fiction writing than technical, because that is where MY passion lies 🙂 )

      This should be a good thing. This should be an indication that I have an awesome career in writing or perhaps editing for others, but I am not a good sales person, therefore I am not good at selling my books. I continue to follow my passion and my dreams, but they do not put food on the table, so I am a “burden” on the government and taxpayers.

      Maybe you should find a good sales person (i.e. an agent). 🙂

      And that is why I also disagree a little bit with what you are saying. I do believe that everyone should follow their own path, including children, but I also believe that sometimes a parent should force their children to learn things they might not want to. If a child wants to do nothing but play games, they should also be given a pet or a garden or something to teach them responsibility.

      Sounds good to me! We just got Kate a kitten for that reason. We’ve been too busy to garden this season but will start next year. And she gets an allowance each week if she completes her chores.

      I think every child should have to learn a craft such as sewing or farming – so that if they aren’t successful at their chosen loves – such as playing video games – they can at least grow their own food or make their own clothes to save money and take care of themselves.

      I agree. Kate is very interested in cooking these days. And she loves gardening, too. Loves to see the strawberries in springtime and the tomatoes in summer.

  42. we are very particular as to what we watch in our family and even with that we limit screen time according to the age of the child. i will just say that there is plenty of research done and can be found via google about how large amounts of screen time debilitate the habit of attention…i would rather watch tv or read a book than play a sport; however, these things are not relationally engaging, so we do put effort into supplying a variety of experiences for our children, which is the true foundation of unschooling. mihaly csikszentmihalyi, the author of the book FLOW, give insight to how unfulfilling large amounts of passive activities are. By ‘large’, i mean being involved in passive activities most of our time and neglecting interactive and relational activities that we enjoy, i.e. listening to a storyteller at a rennaissance festival. The festival and tv are both entertaiment, yet we can ‘be a part’ of the festival, be around people, learn from them by their stories. There is a natural need in each of us to connect and to do so we must have balance. If my child were to show more interest in learning something that would require more screen time, we would reevalute it. Shalom, Darlene

  43. You make some interesting points, as do the authors you mention, who I will certainly check out. However, a few observations, in no particular order:

    There are substantive developmental differences between watching TV and reading. If an older child is reading a chapter book with few or no pictures, they are imaging the action in their mind, visualizing the story. This is valuable for brain development, versus watching the story portrayed on a screen. No, I don’t have a reference for this info, but my mom who is a college instructor in child development has always explained it that way. (Of course, reading a story fully illustrated like a comic book might not have the same benefits.) In the case of a parent who is reading a picture book to a young child, the story might be illustrated for the child, but the parent-child interaction going on is highly valuable for bonding and for language development. A number of studies have shown that children learn information more readily from direct human interaction than from screen or audio. I remember reading some specific studies related to learning foreign languages that found this.

    The problem with screen time is not about what a child is learning or experiencing from the screen, it is what the screen time takes away from doing, like reading/imagining or interacting with the physical, 3 dimensional world. Personally, I find that after periods of time when our family has allowed a lot of TV because some of us are sick or really busy, my children suddenly can find nothing to do with themselves when the screen is off, but during periods when they have watched little or no TV they are creative, animated, and interactive, using their toys, art supplies, sofa cushions, or whatever, in creative ways, imaginative ways. I think it is the passivity that long hours of screen time seems to produce that is most disturbing.

    As far as eventually earning impressive salaries in Silicon Valley because of unlimited access to the computer, I grew up in Palo Alto, go back to visit every year, and I can tell you that those salaries would pretty much buy a shack in a bad section of town. Not really what I would want for my kid, personally, as far as a standard of living.

    In the example you give of the unschooled child teaching himself programming, it is certainly impressive and I, in the same situation, would probably allow him to pursue this interest unrestricted. When you talk about the truly exceptional cases of people who innovate in the field of computer technology or entertainment innovation, I just don’t buy the idea that letting the average kid have unlimited access to screen time is going to give them the best shot at that kind of greatness and contribution to the world. Sure, if they are moving in that direction, we should recognize it and encourage it, not inhibit it from a bias against screens, but I personally think that is a few cry from giving young children unlimited screen access.

  44. Have you ever wondered why there is a TV set in every restaurant, bar, waiting room, store, and household? Don’t you wonder why the government gave everyone $40 to convert to digital TV?

    TV is one of the major tools being used to dumb down society by the global elites. Suggest reading “The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations” by Dr. John Coleman.
    Also: “Subliminal Behavior Modification Using TV, Computer Monitor Described in US Patent” at https://coto2.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/subliminal-behavior-modification-using-tv-computer-monitor-described-in-us-patent/

    It’s not the message as much as it is the medium. The ruling elite must love you.

    1. Here’s a brief quote from a biography of Mark Twain: “Twain became somewhat bitter in his later years, even while projecting an amiable persona to his public. In private he demonstrated a stunning insensitivity to friends and loved ones. “Much of the last decade of his life, he lived in hell,” wrote Hamlin Hill. He wrote a fair amount was unable to finish most of his projects. His memory faltered. He had volcanic rages and nasty bouts of paranoia, and he experienced many periods of depressed indolence he tried to assuage by smoking cigars, reading in bed, and playing endless hours of billiards and cards.”

      This is not the mark of a healthy man. Also, it seems as though the reading in bed all day every day (and other sedentary activities) was not something that happened on a regular basis throughout his 74 years of life. He was very active, traveled extensively, and tried his hand at many occupations. Also, since it’s not always fair to compare an old man with a child in every situation, Twain was reported to have spent his childhood going to the many circuses, fairs, watching the steamboats come in, watching tradesmen (like blacksmiths), and listening to his mother’s wonderful stories.

      In my parents’ house (I’m a 20-something recent college grad, and no longer live with them, but I have an 11-year-old sister and a 13-year-old sister that live with them), the tv is on constantly. This was not the case when I was their age; apparently the large gap between kids made for many changes in the parenting style of my mother and father. My father and sisters zone out to the tv for almost the entire day every day (my mom does some minor limiting and sends them outside for awhile each day). Even speaking to them in a loud voice or repeating their name will not get their attention. This all day tv-watching has happened for years now. Neither sister has “gotten bored and moved onto other things”, although the 11-year-old does play Froggy Jump and Where’s My Water on the Kindle Fire while the tv drones on in the background. Strangely enough, I’ve noticed many of the same behavioral abnormalities with them that Twain is reported to have experienced.

      Processing the visual stimuli from a screen and processing the visual stimuli from a book are two different processes, using different parts of the brain. A large part of the argument for limiting screen time is focused on the detrimental impact on the neurological development of a child. That’s something that did not seem to be addressed in your argument.

      I don’t know if you have a university ID or another way to read these scholarly journal articles for free so you may have to pay for them if interested in learning more about the “other side” or all the aspects of the debate, but here are links to some relevant information:

      Television viewing associates with delayed language development
      https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1651-2227.2008.00831.x/abstract;jsessionid=57C5B186177AE20EC79D7AF6BBBCD3C1.d04t04?deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=&userIsAuthenticated=false

      The effects of infant media usage: what do we know and what should we learn?
      https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1651-2227.2008.01027.x/full

      Background Television and Reading Memory in Context
      Assessing TV Interference and Facilitative Context Effects on Encoding Versus Retrieval Processes
      https://crx.sagepub.com/content/27/3/327.short

      Debating the Impact of Television and Video Material on Very Young Children: Attention, Learning, and the Developing Brain
      https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1750-8606.2008.00080.x/abstract?deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=&userIsAuthenticated=false

      And here’s a popular periodical article I found interesting:
      https://www.brainhealth.utdallas.edu/index.php/blog//are-our-brains-being-rewired-by-technology

      Sources: I do not have children of my own, so I’m not an expert in parenting. However, I have bachelors degrees in both child Psychology (B.A. Psychology with a concentration in child psych) and English Literature (B.A. English Literature with a concentration in creative writing).

      1. @Heather

        Here’s a brief quote from a biography of Mark Twain: “Twain became somewhat bitter in his later years, even while projecting an amiable persona to his public. In private he demonstrated a stunning insensitivity to friends and loved ones. “Much of the last decade of his life, he lived in hell,” wrote Hamlin Hill. “He wrote a fair amount was unable to finish most of his projects. His memory faltered. He had volcanic rages and nasty bouts of paranoia, and he experienced many periods of depressed indolence he tried to assuage by smoking cigars, reading in bed, and playing endless hours of billiards and cards.”

        Yeah, that’s because his daughter died early of meningitis and he made a bunch of bad investments that left him and his family broke.

        I doubt it had anything to do with his penchant for spending long hours writing in bed.

        I don’t know if you have a university ID or another way to read these scholarly journal articles for free so you may have to pay for them if interested in learning more about the “other side” or all the aspects of the debate, but here are links to some relevant information:

        No I don’t have a university ID.

  45. Everything in moderation is the way I see it. I love TV, I like to play games too and I allow my kids the same. But the day they rather be in front of a screen then outside is the day I know we have gone too far.

    I have seen the sad side effects of people doing too much of something, and it isn’t good for families for any member to have an addiction to any one activity. So I am cautious of such things no matter the activity.

    I also know the bad side effects of sitting too much, it is bad for the body. The body literally starts to shut down and that is why people can get so sleepy and worn out with desk jobs. Making movement a part of our day is very important to me especially as a mom who struggles with her weight. I want to spare my children such troubles and teach them BALANCE. Balance in all things, food choices, TV, movies, books, study, and play. There must be some kind of balance.

    1. Oh and I meant to share too my own personal experience with watching too much TV and not balancing it with book reading. It got to a point with me where I couldn’t focus on a book anymore and I consider myself a book worm! I used to read so much but not so much since becoming a mom. Lessening my TV viewing and replacing it with book reading has greatly improved my memory and concentration. I do still watch TV, I love a good story on the screen as much as in a book. But I can see and feel the difference each has on me and get totally different benefits from each.

      I have to admit that I find book reading to be more beneficial to me personally. Before I started reading again I would get frustrated that I would have to read a paragraph several times over before remembering what I read. The more I read the better that got, we have to exercise our brains and they need more then one type of workout just like our bodies.

  46. Of course, you’ve been doing this for a couple weeks, so you’re an expert. Screen time can be addicting. What’s next, free reign on heroin?

    1. @andrea

      Ooh, yay! Logical fallacies!

      Of course, you’ve been doing this for a couple weeks, so you’re an expert.

      Ad hominem: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem

      Screen time can be addicting. What’s next, free reign on heroin?

      Slippery slope: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slippery_slope

  47. I could hug you for this post! My son wants to be like Daddy and learn animation and graphic design *on the computer*. Also, my son is on the honor roll every quarter and had perfect attendance last year at school. He works hard, as do I and his dad. If we deserve a break, so does he.

    1. @Megan

      I wrote this post for people like you.

      Please let him follow his passion. Let him spend all his time doing what he loves, and praise him for it.

      HUGS!

  48. I am on the other end of the parenting spectrum. My sons are now 22 and 26, and we did not limit screen time either. My husband wanted to, and it was admittedly something we never agreed on, but all the awful results simply did not happen. I wanted them to start school knowing who the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were, and who The Simpsons were, so they were not hopelessly left out of conversations. What we did do was to consistently talk about what they were watching on TV, and that it had little to do with reality. It was purely entertainment, nothing more. The same with commercials. We didn’t buy advertised products. I am and have always been an ardent exerciser, so they were brought up seeing me work out daily. We were the last family on the block to get a computer, because we couldn’t afford one. Once we did, we made sensible (not fanatic) use of parental controls. The results? Both boys are voracious readers, and neither have TV service. They are not interested; they use their TVs to watch movies. They are both in fine shape; my older son climbs, summits, has a black belt in Shorin-Ryu martial arts, and just started yoga. My younger one plays basketball on a league to relieve stress, and did Dragon Boat racing all through high school. He and his girlfriend do Pilates together. It’s a matter of how you approach parenting, Either you use TV as a babysitter to avoid active parenting, or you use it as a learning tool and take an active role in your children’s lives. But limiting or avoiding TV and/or technology just isn’t realistic, especially as most careers now depend on the latter. In fact, NOT being on either Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn lessens a person’s chance of getting a job interview. Sad, but that’s the way the world is.

  49. For every Bill Gates, there are 10,000 people who didn’t hit it big. The plural of anecdote is not data. I’m sorry, but Mark Twain writing in bed has literally no bearing on watching TV. The context within which he lived was completely different. No cars, no processed foods, no 24 hour media-media-media. If your argument is that TV doesn’t negatively impact energy expenditure, it’s simply not true as has been documented by numerous research studies. If your argument is that you see value in TV and computers, you can make that argument without attempting to disprove well established (and really pretty obvious) facts. Any attempt to compare books to TV is ludicrous. TV is purely passive, books require imagination to create a world in your head. Your kids, your choices. However, I think the 10,000 hour concept would suggest that time is much better spent in non-passive activities. The Beatles didn’t become the Beatles watching American Idol. They became the Beatles by practice-practice-practice.

    1. @Jenny

      For every Bill Gates, there are 10,000 people who didn’t hit it big. The plural of anecdote is not data.

      Yes, and the vast majority of parents would never let their teenager spend 10,000 hours in front of a screen. According to the 10,000 hour rule, it takes that much time to become successful at something. Is it any wonder that most kids don’t become successful like Gates did?

      I’m sorry, but Mark Twain writing in bed has literally no bearing on watching TV. The context within which he lived was completely different. No cars, no processed foods, no 24 hour media-media-media. If your argument is that TV doesn’t negatively impact energy expenditure, it’s simply not true as has been documented by numerous research studies.

      Do you want me to list the modern-day engineers, game designers, and other miscellaneous computer and TV professionals who are not obese and are perfectly healthy? Because there are plenty.

      Any attempt to compare books to TV is ludicrous. TV is purely passive, books require imagination to create a world in your head.

      How about plays? Movies? Are those “bad” just because there are moving images involved?

      If so, why? Why is something “bad” just because you combine words with images?

      Would you complain if your son or daughter won an Emmy or an Oscar? Would you complain if they had a hit Broadway show? Probably not. So why would you restrict them and prevent them from following their passion?

      Your kids, your choices. However, I think the 10,000 hour concept would suggest that time is much better spent in non-passive activities. The Beatles didn’t become the Beatles watching American Idol. They became the Beatles by practice-practice-practice.

      Yes, but I am arguing that The Beatles most likely would have never been interested in becoming The Beatles if they hadn’t been inspired by first listening to other musicians.

      People don’t just pick up a guitar and exclaim, “I want to be a rock star and I will practice 16 hours a day,” without first listening to rock music.

      “John Lennon once claimed to have listened to Harry Nilsson’s Pandemonium Shadow Show for two days straight.”

      https://voices.yahoo.com/3-bands-influenced-beatles-185605.html?cat=33

      Hmm… I wonder if John Lennon would have been John Lennon if his parents had prevented him from listening to a record for 2 days straight.

  50. This is FASCINATING!! While we don’t home school currently, we are adopting a child (who will join our 3 biological children) in the next couple months. He’s had visits at our home (he’s in elementary school) and we have been told he is “addicted” to computers and electronics. Throughout his recent years in foster care, they have “outlawed” these things. We have allowed him to be on them (with supervision). He loves it and he’s GOOD at it – something that I could see boosting his self-esteem. Thanks for a great post on the benefits. I feel empowered!

    1. @Mellssa B

      I think it’s fascinating, too.

      How sad about your child. And how lucky he is to have you as his future parents! Maybe he will become the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. 🙂

  51. Thank you! for writing a whole bunch of things I’ve been wanting to write for a while and haven’t gotten around to yet. I couldn’t agree more. 🙂

  52. My problem with this whole post is the manner in which you present it–as an expert in this field. You are just now starting with one young child. As a mother who home schooled her children straight through high school, I can say that I know not one other parent who ended 100% the way they began. Every child is individual, and every year brings its own character and events. Unschooling is great for some families but not for others. Attending a couple of homeschool conferences and listening to some speakers are not a substitute for experience. This is your blog, and you have all rights to present anything you wish. But it would be great to see it presented as an idea, something your family is going to explore, a great adventure (which homeschooling is), etc.–not as this is “the” way to do it, and all those who have gone before and limit electronic media aren’t doing right by their children. One of the fun things about homeschooling and associating with other home schoolers is the friendly exchange of schooling ideas without being patronizing. I would have to say the biggest lesson I learned early on was to lighten up. Explore, have fun, and don’t take the attitude that you know the only right way. What’s great for my child just might not be great for anyone else. But isn’t that one of the reasons we homeschool–so we can tailor make it to fit each child’s needs and personality?

    1. @Donna

      My problem with this whole post is the manner in which you present it–as an expert in this field. You are just now starting with one young child. As a mother who home schooled her children straight through high school, I can say that I know not one other parent who ended 100% the way they began.

      I can see that. Does that mean I should stay silent until I know everything there is to know? A blog is about sharing as you are on the path.

      Every child is individual, and every year brings its own character and events. Unschooling is great for some families but not for others. Attending a couple of homeschool conferences and listening to some speakers are not a substitute for experience.

      Agreed. Check back in 20 years when Kate has graduated college and then you can determine if I did it “right”.

      This is your blog, and you have all rights to present anything you wish. But it would be great to see it presented as an idea, something your family is going to explore, a great adventure (which homeschooling is), etc.–not as this is “the” way to do it, and all those who have gone before and limit electronic media aren’t doing right by their children.

      Sorry if that is the way you took it but that is not what I was expressing.

      This is why WE don’t limit screen time. That’s what I called the post Why We Don’t Limit Screen Time.

      I did not call it, “This Is Why YOU Shouldn’t Limit Screen Time”.

  53. I really like the comments on this post, lots of people weighing in on what works for their family. I especially like the comment that their kids have unlimited screen time, but choose to do other things and not just sit in front of it all day long. This is my son to a T. He loves to watch Veggie Tales or youtube videos, but he also plays really well and is very creative and wants to be social and play with people of all ages (sometimes annoying me to death!). We have never set a limit on him. While he is only 3.5 and time will tell once he is able to play video games, I think he will never be the type of person that just zones out all day and doesn’t want interaction with people or hands on learning experiences. We also plan on doing a more unschooled approach. You are awesome Ann Marie! And big shout out to Amy! We love her over at Ray Peat Fans facebook group.

    1. Hey, Janelle!

      I just wanted to be sure that I also say that we do lots of different things, too. I actually just spent all of yesterday going through my kids’ rooms cleaning out two large paper boxes full of books they have read and want me to put in storage for later. For a long time, all they wanted to read was Garfield, and I was a little concerned that they would never want to read anything else. When our state isn’t on fire, we go camping and in the winter, sledding. My kids take acting classes, because they want to. They have taken lots of different classes. If they want to do something, I make it happen.

      Both my husband and I have graduate degrees in science fields (me in Neurobiology, after graduating a year early from college with honors – and it was nearly a PhD, but I was only 23 and the time and decided I needed to go out and work in the field to see if I really liked it), and him in Electrical Engineering. We both watched a lot of television growing up. There was a joke that his best friend used to tell about when he went over to my husband’s house one day, and the TV was on, just as usual. Nobody was in the room, so he turned it off. All of a sudden, everyone came from around the house wanting to know who dared turn off the television!

      My son watched a lot of television as a child, too. And, he was hyperlexic. He had the verbal capabilities of an 8 year old when he was not quite 3 yet. So, I don’t believe that research on television and learning applies to everyone (that’s why there are *statistics* involved in research). I think that probably has more to do with children being involved in conversation, and possibly nutrition.

      We were lucky enough to be invited to a conference at MIT for educators this summer, and got to watch this great keynote presentation from Connie Yowell, Director of the MacArthur Foundation and Jan Cuny of the National Science Foundation, which discusses the need for computer science education. The number of jobs in the tech sector is only increasing, and the K-12 education has remained the same for many years.

      https://video.mit.edu/watch/scratchmit-2012-keynote-jan-cuny-and-connie-yowell-12194/

      One interesting quote from Dr. Cuny was that by eighth grade, most children have decided whether nor not they want to be in a technical field. But then high schools fail to deliver with technical education.

      Dr. Mimi Ito has found that 9 out of 10 children are consumers of technology, as opposed to 1 in 10 who are programmers. So, yes, my child may be an oddity. But, he wouldn’t be nearly as far along as he is if he wasn’t given the opportunity to explore his passion. He would be in the 90% instead, and we would never know that he was even capable of being in the 10%. But it took lots of time on video games and intelligent shopping on my part in order to learn that about him. He might not go to college (but he wants to, after visiting MIT!).

      A great blog covering many of these topics is written by Dr. Peter Gray — The Freedom To Learn Blog. You can see discussions of such topics as “Video Game Addiction: Does it Occur? Why?” and “All Work and No Play Make the Baining the Dullest Culture on Earth.”

      https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn

      The Internet is the great equalizer. My husband telecommutes to work *on the other side of the planet.* We are able to live in a beautiful area where job opportunities were drying up when we moved here, all because he is an expert in what he does… because he is passionate about it, and is a life learner. He has told me that what makes him a valuable employee is what he learned himself, on his own.

      I love that @Melissa piped in. 🙂 I know she was homeschooled, and it’s always nice to hear the viewpoint of others who have “been there.”

  54. This article highlights the work of Joseph Chilton Pierce, a man who has spent his life studying brain development. Time permitting, I highly recommend reading his books for full insight into his work and the resulting conclusions: https://ezinearticles.com/?Television-and-Computer-Effects-on-Learning-and-Emotional-Intelligence&id=542847

    1. @Melentia

      Having visual electronics in kids’ bedrooms decreases the amount of time families spend together, increases the risk of early exposure to pornography and children acting out sexually, decreases the number of family dinners, and decreases the amount of social play time with other young people.

      We don’t let our daughter have a computer or TV or other electronic devices in her bedroom. She only plays on the computer on sites that we allow her to play on. I would not be OK with her being exposed to pornography.

      I’ll continue reading this article further — it’s getting late and I need to get to bed.

      Thanks for your comment!

  55. I find it a little concerning that you have not addressed the inherent addictive nature of TV or any of the science and psychology behind its harmful effects, especially on young children. As someone who has worked in the TV/Film industry for ten years (both indie and mainstream corporate) I hope that you understand that children’s TV show (all tv shows actually) and mainstream movies are literally designed to be addicting and hyperstimulating. None of it is high art or in any way comparable to Shakespeare. I hope you will do some research into fine/high art and low/commercial art and see the huge differences. Also glorifying Mark Twain’s antisocial, obsessive mental illness-ridden life is pretty irresponsible.
    Would you also allow your child unlimited processed candy and snacks? Its the exact same thing: products designed to hyperstimulate the senses and hook the consumer in.

    1. @MissMaryMac

      None of it is high art or in any way comparable to Shakespeare. I hope you will do some research into fine/high art and low/commercial art and see the huge differences.

      I majored in Radio TV Film, have done plenty of research. Disagree that TV is “low art”.

      Would you also allow your child unlimited processed candy and snacks? Its the exact same thing: products designed to hyperstimulate the senses and hook the consumer in.

      Yes I do on occasion — such as Halloween. We don’t keep that stuff in the house generally though. Even though she has it occasionally (and we adults do too) we are not “hooked”.

      Also glorifying Mark Twain’s antisocial, obsessive mental illness-ridden life is pretty irresponsible.

      See my other comment re: Mark Twain. He lost his daughter at an early age and made a bunch of bad investments that lost him a lot of money — you can’t blame that on his sedentary tendencies.

      I think if Mark Twain were alive today, he might be writing for TV or films.

  56. Hi Ann Marie,

    Well, one thing’s for sure… screen time is the cheapest babysitter around! It would have helped a whole lot during some of the most intensive years of rearing my four sons… especially those ‘tandem nursing’ marathons!

    I unschooled my eldest son without benefit of much of that, mostly because it wasn’t nearly as available, or at least as prevalent almost thirty years ago. TV was obviously ubiquitous, but I came into adulthood with a vague sense of having been abused by public education and commercial television (the two most effective devices for achieving mass mind control ever invented in my opinion) and I didn’t want that for my son.

    I had to compromise with the hubby of course, but I succeeded in achieving many years of a TV-free home, and even after he brought one in, I had ‘the con’ while he was at work! In fairness, even though he spent a good deal of time in front of a screen working and watching sports himself, he cooperated with me when it came to strictly curtailing the screen time of our boys. He seemed to know intuitively that it wasn’t what they needed to learn, grow and thrive.

    My son read late, at nearly nine, but went almost immediately to reading at a college level. When he wasn’t reading, he was drawing, woodworking, doing science experiments, riding his bike as far as he could get away with, learning ‘programming’ on the lap his software engineer dad, socializing with other home-schoolers, knitting, climbing trees, building forts, preteen ‘crushing’ on our housekeeper’s daughter, going to karate class, caring for our animals, engaging with and looking after his three younger brothers, visiting the love of his life…Grandma, being active in his AWANA club, doing ENDLESS mazes, sometimes experiencing the luxury of… Heaven help us… BORDOM, and then back to reading again.

    When he was a little older and did watch some TV, it was PBS or videos selected by his dad and myself… except at Grandma’s house where he watched Mega Man and whatever else he wanted, but then she let him eat whatever he wanted too, which is a grandmother’s prerogative I suppose (; An artist herself, she also engaged him in hundreds if not thousands of art projects (mostly revolving around Mega Man as a theme) and spent endless hours sharing her love of gardening with him, down on her knees at bug level, while simultaneously filling him in on generations worth of family history and anecdotes.

    Today he is a software engineer for Facebook… a software engineer who read The Iliad, The Odyssey and the entire Bible long before he was old enough to shave… a software engineer who knows how to make beeswax candles, build an effective slingshot, repair just about any electronic device, care for a rabbit, comfort a baby and engage in meaningful dialogue with someone over sixty-five.

    I believe with all my heart that unlimited screen time during those critical growth years would have put the kibosh on so much of the reading, experimenting, exploring, drifting, dreaming, trying/failing, feeling frustrated/then having a brain storm, and otherwise engaging with his own imagination, other people and the world at large that allowed him to become the well-rounded man he is today. But I’ll ask him what he thinks and get back to you!

    A.

    1. Ah, boredom. This is one reason I limit screen time. If TV were available all the time the minute my child was “bored” that is what he would do. he would not stretch his mind and brain to find something else, to build Legos, work on his fort, talk to me, knit, draw etc. It is SO EASY to simply turn on the TV when we are bored! (as we all well know…) children need to learn how to regulate that too… see my post below. But boredom is an excellent teacher, and TV short circuits the process with an all too easy answer.

  57. I struggle with whether to limit screen time for our 3.5 year old. I am terrified of turning his brain into mush but at the same time am pretty committed to unschooling so it’s been a conflict to me. I am starting to lean toward not feeling so guilty about allowing him unlimited screen time. When I am at work my mother watches him and she can’t stand the silence so she has the TV on pretty much all day. She tells me that he will watch for a while but will play too. He loves watching YouTube videos with us about various things, whatever is his passion at the time. Favorites are wood splitters and chainsaws, space shuttles, etc. he is very curious as to how these things all work. So I do feel like he is leaning things. He watches Netflix mostly, and we talk a lot about what happens on his shows and sometimes he wants to act them out. He hasn’t had much outside time this summer, less than I’d like but it’s been so hot here in Texas. He’s very bright and like others have posted, not overweight at all because I am careful with what we eat around here.

    One thing I have been mulling over is all the comments about a child being whiny or irritable when screen time is unlimited…I have noticed that when I am feeling uneasy about how much the TV has been on it tends to rub off on him and make him more cranky in general. Not to say that the parents who have mentioned this phenomenon aren’t completely right, they know their children the best, but how many times do our attitudes rub off on our kids? If we were more relaxed about it and didn’t make them feel as if they are doing something illicit, would they more naturally limit themselves? Just a thought. I’m going to try it 🙂

  58. What about the kid who decides Danielle Steele is the greatest author of all time and wants to be a romance writer? Or the kid who wants to run a Taco Bell (I know, that’s a real reach.)

    My point is that we all have ways we would try and steer our kids.

    Who knows if silicon valley will be hoppin’ in five years? Or ten?

    Part of the success mentioned in the 10,000 is being young, full of innovative ideas, being in an emerging field in the right place at the right time . . . how do we help our kids be in the right place at the right time wih the right skills? Will a lot of screen time help or hinder?

  59. No one has mentioned the effect of electro-magnetic fields and electro-pollution due to the increased use of wireless devices. I limit my child’s use of computers, cell phones and other wireless devices because of the growing evidence of the health hazards from exposure to EMFs especially for children, since their brains and bodies are developing so rapidly and their sculls are much thinner than adults’. I also do not trust industry or government to protect the public from such health hazards. The relentless drive for profits at the expense of people’s health is something we should be talking about not only in the processed food sector but also in the IT and wireless tech sector.

    Here is some interesting reading on this topic if anyone would like to know more.
    https://vitalitymagazine.com/section/green-living/emfs-and-dirty-electricity/

  60. I’ll pass this one by my IT husband, I think he’ll appreciate it 😉

    I think it’s the same with everything else, it all boils down to what you choose to do with it. If our kids are watching TV or playing a game we make sure it’s good stuff. Long live You tube for providing wonderful documentaries and series! But as soon as they veg out in front of some rubbish cartoon network, I switch it off.

    Our oldest is really into Dual Survival at the moment and our girl can’t stop watching Disney’s Fantasia (i switch off the end bit tho). But that does mean they watch TV for two hours straight. Result? Daughter knows the Sugar Plum Fairy by heart and Son thinks it’s really cool to build a raft and realises animals have to die to provide nourishment and appreciates his chicken leg even more because ‘Dave and Cody eat everything too’…

    So thank you for giving me food for thought! Hope you have a nice day.

  61. Anne Marie,

    I know you love to read, so have you ever read a book, “Amusing Ourselves to Death” by Neil Postman? It is an excellent read that I would highly suggest, or an easy read perhaps woulc be “Flickering Pixels” by Shane Hipp.

  62. Yes, because if I didn’t my children would be on the computer all day and we would never get any schoolwork done.

  63. Hi Ann Marie,
    very interesting topic. Here is my take: First I have to say some things about Waldorf because I went to a Waldorf school and we had no TV in our house growing up. I LOVED school, every single day. For me Waldorf was a fabulous fit and I am deeply grateful that my parents sent me and my brother there. For me the lack of TV led deeply into books, reading, writing etc and now I have a Master of Library Science degree. Now Waldorf is kinda of odd… and I do not think my child (7 yr old boy) would fit in Waldorf as well as I did.
    As for screen time, I obviously was biased against it due to my lack of TV growing up, and that is almost easier, just not have it. When you have it then you have to walk the middle path. How do we learn about this? How does this affect us etc? I think limiting TV and screen time is something children need to learn to do, like they need to learn that if they don’t go to bed till midnight getting up at 6:30 is really hard. But they need to learn it at the time they are ready. My child goes to public school, and we have to catch the bus early. We limit DVDs and movies (we get NO TV reception… and we are too cheap to pay for it cause we don’t want to watch it anyway!) on school nights, and during the day on weekends. But we watch together and we go to the “movie store” every week and pick out new videos. Computer games make my child SO SO angry and unhappy and awful that I rarely let him play. Maybe when he gets older. Our children need to learn how to self regulate BEFORE they leave the house at 18 (or whenever) but sometimes we have to help them get there, a few steps at a time. Sometimes they are ready to self regulate one thing before another. To decide to stop reading and turn out the light before they can stop a movie.

  64. My main issue with screen time is its effects on the brain and brain development. I would definitely restrict screen time, particularly under the age of five. I have noticed with myself even, as an adult, that TV can be very addictive and that watching to much makes my quality of life decline, but I am not sure children would be able to pull themselves way. Hard enough for me if I get in a “TV zone.”

    As an aside, I recently attended a party where over dinner the entire conversation was about reality TV and various “characters” on the shows. It struck me as sad and kind of pathetic. I’d rather have a real life and more meaningful things to discuss. I think one reason Europeans are happier and more engaged is because they watch much less TV.

  65. Interesting discussion. The only thing I feel to add is a food analogy. I imagine the screen time debate is much like the nutritional food debate. It’s more about quality than quantity. Theoretically, there should be no reason to disallow as much screen consumption as a child could wish. Same for good foods. If your child is hungry, let them eat as much of the healthy, wholesome, nutritious food as they want, because it’s hard to judge what is the right amount for an individual if you are not that individual. That being said, I would just as soon allow my child to unrestrainedly fill their brain with the slop that our culture calls entertainment and information as I would allow them to go to the grocery store and unrestrainedly feed themselves from the buffet of crap this country calls ‘food.’ Which is to say, I wouldn’t. I would certainly allow SOME of the above, because children need to learn how to compare and contrast and make wise choices, but the overwhelming amount of media (and food) available to a child should be well reviewed by the parent and approved because of it’s wholesomeness and ability to produce healthy growth and immunity to ill.

    1. @Jen

      Exactly. When we go to the store, I pick out healthy foods to fill our fridge and cupboards. I explain to my daughter why we buy the things we buy, and why we don’t buy the things we don’t. Just yesterday we were at Trader Joe’s and she pointed at a jar of tomato sauce and said, “Mommy, don’t buy that one — it’s low fat!” I had to explain to her that we don’t buy low fat yogurt or low fat milk because fat is good for you, but that it’s OK to buy low-fat tomato sauce because tomatoes don’t have fat.

      Same goes for TV. We can talk about the shows and movies she watches. Just yesterday we watched a movie called Matilda. She loved it! It’s about a girl who has these parents who watch TV and hate books. She has to raise herself. At the age of 4 she was cooking for herself and walking to the library to read.

      We talked a lot about how neat it is to be able to take care of yourself and do things on your own. Kate said, “When I am a big kid, I will do everything by myself! I can’t wait!” She kept rewinding the movie over and over and watching the parts where Matilda was powerful and in control, and doing things for herself. Then Kate asked me if I could get a recipe for pancakes so she could make them (that’s what Matilda made in the movie). And so we made pancakes together. Later that night she helped me make lasagna for dinner.

  66. AnnMarie,
    I’ve read all of these comments, and there are really only a few points being made, few of them that you’ve addressed adequately:

    1. When are you going to address the well-documented negative impact on the developing brain (even the developed, adult brain) of watching TV? Please respond to this evidence — both scientific and the experience of all the parents, myself included, commenting here.

    And how can you possibly compare addiction to healthy passion?

    2. You misrepresent (and therefore do not address) the significant difference between the “passivity” of reading vs. watching TV/movies. By saying “let’s pretend we’re watching a Shakespeare play…” or “so and so wrote/read in bed…” you completely ignore the point — that many have made — that the activity of reading is the significant imagination and brainwork, not physical labor. And that WATCHING a play isn’t the same as reading it. It’s the OPPOSITE of being completely receptive to entertainment, and the brain scans and emotional differences of reading tons and watching tons bears this out. ** Please tell me you get the difference in what someone has to do when they READ (or WRITE) vs. when they consume TV/movies/plays.**

    3. Limiting games and TV is NOT usually because parents hate or don’t like media anymore than I don’t like birthday cake or wine, both things I limit (and yes, I do let my kids have small sips of wine ; ) That’s just silly, a strawman. My kids are watching shows right now, and they were playing games earlier this morning.

    4. You make massive leaps about children’s desire to watch TV/movies being linked to their dreams?!? This is super-atypical. As though my 4 year old A) is watching TV out of some deep down desire vs. boredom, or that B) if I don’t let him, I’m — what — judging his dreams? this is just assanine. ** If I don’t let him eat Twinkies all day, am I squelching his dream to make the next crappy snack food? Please answer that. **

    I do see that there are folks who wanted to program and weren’t able to develop that talent. That should happen… and that’s NOT what most or even all of teh parents posting here are proposing.

    5. You’re glorfying jobs in the technology sector and I’m not sure why — because of money? I agree with those who are lukewarm at best at the thought of our kids making the next Angry Birds. If my kids want that — or ANY job just because of the money — ultimately, they can make their own decisions. But get excited about it? No.
    ** Why are you opposed to parents instilling their values to their children? Aren’t you doing the same thing by teaching your daughter about nutrition? Or any other value that I’m sure you have? For some of us, saying no to the incessent passive entertainment, as well as to the desire primarily for a massive paycheck, are also values we wish to transmit. No different than any of yours. **

    I get that you’re all jazzed up now about unleashing your daughters potential without the constraints of a curriculum. But you are taking this too far, IMO, when you say ANY choice she wants to make that you might curb or outright prohibit could somehow “squelch her dreams.” This is just not well thought out.

    1. @Annie

      Thanks for your comment.

      It got to be pretty late last night and I had to go to bed. I have to get on to other things today and can’t respond to all the comments but I’ll respond to a few, get my work done, and then I can come back to responding later today.

      1. When are you going to address the well-documented negative impact on the developing brain (even the developed, adult brain) of watching TV? Please respond to this evidence — both scientific and the experience of all the parents, myself included, commenting here.

      Can you please post some links to studies that I can respond to? I’ll comb through the other comments as well but I can’t spend much time today — I have to work on payroll and get an e-book done today!

      I’ve been finding just as many studies that TV and computer gaming make you smarter. For example, watch the video I posted above about “gamification” (the first one in the post). He talks about the “Flynn effect” about halfway through the video. Fascinating!

      Also check out these articles:

      TV Makes You Smarter
      https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200410/tv-makes-you-smarter

      Watching TV Makes You Smarter
      https://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/24/magazine/24TV.html

      Department of Defense Research: Gamers Are 20% Smarter
      https://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/97838-Department-of-Defense-Research-Gamers-Are-20-Smarter

      Video Games Boost Brain Power, Multitasking Skills
      https://www.npr.org/2010/12/20/132077565/video-games-boost-brain-power-multitasking-skills

      And how can you possibly compare addiction to healthy passion?

      Not sure what your question is here. There are lots of successful people in the world who others may label “addicted”. But they love what they do and can’t stop doing it. They jump out of bed in the morning and run to that thing they love. Whether it’s video games or blogging or working at a hair salon or running a company.

      It irks me when people spread the idea that video games and TV are addictive.

      Definition of addiction: “ad·dic·tion – the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.”

      I don’t know anyone who has experienced “severe trauma” from playing computer games or watching TV. That said, I do know people who have experienced severe trauma from alcohol or drug addiction. I do not think it is fair to lump these things together.

      2. You misrepresent (and therefore do not address) the significant difference between the “passivity” of reading vs. watching TV/movies. By saying “let’s pretend we’re watching a Shakespeare play…” or “so and so wrote/read in bed…” you completely ignore the point — that many have made — that the activity of reading is the significant imagination and brainwork, not physical labor. And that WATCHING a play isn’t the same as reading it.

      Watching TV does not have to be a passive activity. Please read this article: https://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/24/magazine/24TV.html

      Playing computer games most definitely is not passive.

      Obviously I’m an advocate of reading AND watching TV and movies. As well as playing games, computer games and real-life games. I think it’s all good.

      It’s the OPPOSITE of being completely receptive to entertainment, and the brain scans and emotional differences of reading tons and watching tons bears this out. ** Please tell me you get the difference in what someone has to do when they READ (or WRITE) vs. when they consume TV/movies/plays.**

      Again please read the article above about the show, 24.

      3. Limiting games and TV is NOT usually because parents hate or don’t like media anymore than I don’t like birthday cake or wine, both things I limit (and yes, I do let my kids have small sips of wine ; ) That’s just silly, a strawman. My kids are watching shows right now, and they were playing games earlier this morning.

      People are capable of learning to self-limit. Having a mommy or daddy hanging over your head telling you you should stop doing something sends the message that you don’t know what you’re doing and that you are not capable.

      For example, I like coffee, but I can only drink one or 2 cups. Anything beyond that and I get too jittery. Besides, I get tired of coffee and want something else.

      Same goes for TV. I like to watch TV but I also like lots of other things: working, taking walks, swimming, reading, etc. etc. I get to make my own choices and do what I think is best.

      Kids are capable of this as well at a very young age.

      Best-selling author and former public school teacher, John Taylor Gatto is big advocate of unschooling and what he says is that kids are treated like children for way too long. We should respect kids as human beings and let them do what they want to do and let them make their own decisions.

      My daughter is already talking about starting a business (“we’ll make and sell food so we can make money”) and she is only 5. I think that’s awesome. I truly believe that she has this attitude because she knows that she is in charge of her life and she can decide what she wants to do. I encourage her to make her own decisions instead of hanging over her head and telling her “you can’t do this and you can’t do that”.

      4. You make massive leaps about children’s desire to watch TV/movies being linked to their dreams?!? This is super-atypical. As though my 4 year old A) is watching TV out of some deep down desire vs. boredom, or that B) if I don’t let him, I’m — what — judging his dreams? this is just assanine.

      First of all, what’s wrong with being super-atypical? (Answer: Nothing)

      All I’m saying is this: TV is not bad. Computers are not bad. They are just part of life. Just like food is part of life and sports and reading and math and shopping and making art and cooking, etc. etc. None of it is bad or wrong. It’s just part of life.

      You misspelled asinine. If you want to call me “stupid or foolish”, which is what asinine means, that’s fine. But it’s not a good logical argument.

      So here’s my argument in response to yours: YES if your son is fascinated by TV, if he can’t get enough of it, if he wants to talk about it all the time and wants to watch every day, why not let him? Why not sit and watch him as he explores TV and talk to him about it? Find out what it is he loves about it? You might find out that he LOVES TV and one day wants to make TV shows. Or you may find out that he just loves the Animal Planet channel and wants to be a veterinarian. Or you may find out that he is learning to speak and read and he likes TV because it helps him learn words faster.

      ** If I don’t let him eat Twinkies all day, am I squelching his dream to make the next crappy snack food? Please answer that. **

      If my daughter went to a friend’s house and ate a Twinkie and came home and told me, “Mom I LOVE Twinkies! They are my favorite food!” I would say, “That’s great!”

      And then maybe I’d figure out a way to make a Twinkie that is better for you (that’s the kind of thing I do because I write a food blog). Maybe we’d make a homemade Twinkie from sprouted flour and unrefined sugar and we could put in real buttercream frosting for the filling. We’d talk about what’s wrong with store-bought Twinkies, how they are made with rancid, hydrogenated vegetable oils and how those oils don’t have any vitamins like butter and cream do.

      We’d maybe even do a science experiment and we’d take a store-bought Twinkie and one of our homemade Twinkies and we’d put them outside and see which ones the squirrels and birds eat first. And maybe we’d also do an experiment where we leave both Twinkies in a closed container and see which one molds and which does not.

      I do see that there are folks who wanted to program and weren’t able to develop that talent. That should happen… and that’s NOT what most or even all of teh parents posting here are proposing.

      Most of the parents are saying that an activity is not valid unless it is productive and educational. I’m saying there’s a lot of value in loafing around, doing nothing, exploring, playing, and yes, watching TV and playing games.

      5. You’re glorfying jobs in the technology sector and I’m not sure why — because of money?

      Money is great but technology is also FUN! I have had some of the coolest jobs on the planet. Building websites, working at internet startups, managing online advertising campaigns. Graphic design is really fun. So is game design. So is coding.

      I agree with those who are lukewarm at best at the thought of our kids making the next Angry Birds. If my kids want that — or ANY job just because of the money — ultimately, they can make their own decisions. But get excited about it? No.

      It is not my job to decide what is best for my child. It is my job to expose my child to all kinds of things in the world, and give her the freedom to, in the words of Joseph Campbell, “follow her bliss”.

      If you don’t like Angry Birds, that’s fine. But your child may love it. I personally can’t stand football, but if my kid wanted to play football, I’d be at every game cheering him on.

      ** Why are you opposed to parents instilling their values to their children? Aren’t you doing the same thing by teaching your daughter about nutrition? Or any other value that I’m sure you have? For some of us, saying no to the incessent passive entertainment, as well as to the desire primarily for a massive paycheck, are also values we wish to transmit. No different than any of yours. **

      See my response above about Twinkies. I don’t have “values” about food that I want to instill in my daughter. I can teach her what I know about the vitamins in cream and butter, and how soybean oil doesn’t have those vitamins. Those aren’t values — it’s just information that may benefit her.

      Here’s what I believe:

      Your children are not your children.
      They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
      They come through you but not from you,
      And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

      You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
      For they have their own thoughts.
      You may house their bodies but not their souls,
      For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
      You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
      For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

      You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
      The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
      Let our bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
      For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

      Kahlil Gibran (1883 – 1931)

      If Kate wants to be a farmer, I would support that. If she wants to be a teacher, I’ll support it. If she wants to run a Taco Bell, I’ll support it. If she is gay, I’ll support it. If she wants to work for minimum wage in a video game store and write novels on the side that never get published, I’ll support it. If she wants to start a junk food company, I’ll support it.

      Why? Because it’s HER life, not mine. It is not my job to decide for her. She gets to live her one and only life in the way she sees fit.

      I get that you’re all jazzed up now about unleashing your daughters potential without the constraints of a curriculum. But you are taking this too far, IMO, when you say ANY choice she wants to make that you might curb or outright prohibit could somehow “squelch her dreams.” This is just not well thought out.

      Thanks for your opinion.

      I disagree. I think it’s very well-thought out.

      1. So, what limits are in your mind ok and/or necessary to place on or around your child?
        You’ve said you limit snack foods, and you limit her choices in what she can view – yes? I assume you woudl also limit where she wants to sleep to inside the house or yard of you or someone you know? Maybe you might (attempt) to limit her behavior if she started to scream and hit when she didn’t get her way?

        And what limits are not ok to put on or around your child? So far, we have screen time.

        And what is the difference in your mind between these two groups of limits?

        I’m not trying to be a jerk (comes naturally sometimes… ; ) Really think the concept of limiting our children — not the screens — is what’s at the heart of your passion here, and want to understand where you draw lines since you find drawing a line at screens to be limiting to children’s self-direction and life potential.

        Thanks.

        1. @Annie

          So, what limits are in your mind ok and/or necessary to place on or around your child?

          You’ve said you limit snack foods, and you limit her choices in what she can view – yes? I assume you woudl also limit where she wants to sleep to inside the house or yard of you or someone you know? Maybe you might (attempt) to limit her behavior if she started to scream and hit when she didn’t get her way?

          If she screamed I would say Ouch, that hurts my ears.

          If she hit, I would say, Ouch, that hurts me!

          Is that limiting? No, not really. It’s expressing to her how I feel. I’m not saying you are not allowed to hit — I’m saying Hey I don’t like that!

          And what limits are not ok to put on or around your child? So far, we have screen time.

          And what is the difference in your mind between these two groups of limits?

          Not sure what you are asking here.

          I’m not trying to be a jerk (comes naturally sometimes… ; ) Really think the concept of limiting our children — not the screens — is what’s at the heart of your passion here, and want to understand where you draw lines since you find drawing a line at screens to be limiting to children’s self-direction and life potential.

          I try just to communicate with her and let her know what I feel and think. I don’t tell her this is bad and that is good.

      2. As for your responses, thank you for all the time you took with them. In no particular order…

        1. There are lots of studies that others have posted, I’ll let those stand in for now. I will also look at the ones you’ve posted.

        2. I’m a little mystified that you’re “irked” that people call gaming addictive… in fact, people who suffer from gaming addiction fall exactly into the definition you provided…?

        3. I don’t hang over my kids dictating everything they do. That is really quite black and white. And you didn’t answer my example — I limit my children’s sweets, as do you… , I limit the amount of alcohol they can taste, you might not even allow your daughter any tastes of wine, which would be even more limiting than I’m being… Why not allow then to self-direct in these areas? Maybe you’ll say, Well I give her a set of choices within which she can choose… If so, how is that limitation ok, when you’re general tone is that ANY limits are bad for kids?

        4. I never said they’re anything wrong with being atypical, but ok then, good thing you argued against something i didn’t say ; ) You totally glossed over my point.

        No one — not one person that I have read — has said that TV or movies or computers or relaxing and loafing aruond is bad. And I’m sorry, at this point it’s just not honest to keep claiming that’s teh argument, and then arguing against it.

        And you still haven’t answered how limiting screentime is squelching my 4-yr-old’s dreams?

        5. Sure technology is fun – no need to glorify it though…?

        I didn’t say I hate Angry Birds, so you missed the point there.

        If you want to expose your child to all sorts of things, then why not porn? Or commercials? or anything else you limit? Again – why is it ok to limit some things, but borderline child-abuse to limit things like… screen time?

        Finally, the poem you included is lovely, and I agree with it, as well as your support of your daughter becoming whomever she’s meant to become. That anything I’ve said — or any other poster has said — suggests otherwise is baffling to me.

        I don’t mean this with malice, but you continue to make leaps in your arguments (1 hour of screens a day = a stiffled, sqelched dream), and to ignore the points of others (my kid turned into an angry zombie, or my kid didn’t come out of his room except to stuff his face and can’t hold a conversation), and to ignore the inconsistencies in your own approach (limits here, no limits there).

        1. @Annie

          As for your responses, thank you for all the time you took with them. In no particular order…

          1. There are lots of studies that others have posted, I’ll let those stand in for now. I will also look at the ones you’ve posted.

          I will try to comb through and check them out.

          2. I’m a little mystified that you’re “irked” that people call gaming addictive… in fact, people who suffer from gaming addiction fall exactly into the definition you provided…?

          I think there’s a big difference between addiction and passion. People don’t understand gaming so they label it bad, an addiction.

          3. I don’t hang over my kids dictating everything they do. That is really quite black and white. And you didn’t answer my example — I limit my children’s sweets, as do you… , I limit the amount of alcohol they can taste, you might not even allow your daughter any tastes of wine, which would be even more limiting than I’m being… Why not allow then to self-direct in these areas? Maybe you’ll say, Well I give her a set of choices within which she can choose… If so, how is that limitation ok, when you’re general tone is that ANY limits are bad for kids?

          I give her a set of choices. She cannot watch ANYTHING on TV or play ANY video games. She can choose from her set. But the point is, she can choose.

          Same goes for food.

          4. I never said they’re anything wrong with being atypical, but ok then, good thing you argued against something i didn’t say ; ) You totally glossed over my point.

          No one — not one person that I have read — has said that TV or movies or computers or relaxing and loafing aruond is bad. And I’m sorry, at this point it’s just not honest to keep claiming that’s teh argument, and then arguing against it.

          Playing is relaxing, playing is loafing around. TVs/movies/computer games = loafing/relaxing. That was the point I was making.

          And you still haven’t answered how limiting screentime is squelching my 4-yr-old’s dreams?

          If you think screentime is bad and you limit screentime because you think it’s bad or harmful, and your 4-year-old thinks computers or TV is the best thing since sliced bread and wants to be a future game designer/computer programmer/etc. then you are pissing on his/her parade. You are saying, “That, your dream, the thing you love, is bad and must be limited.”

          5. Sure technology is fun – no need to glorify it though…?

          Why not?

          I didn’t say I hate Angry Birds, so you missed the point there.

          If you want to expose your child to all sorts of things, then why not porn? Or commercials? or anything else you limit? Again – why is it ok to limit some things, but borderline child-abuse to limit things like… screen time?

          Porn is not an acceptable part of our culture. It’s a shameful thing that people don’t want to show in public. If it were legit and accepted, it would be on national TV.

          We skip commercials because we have Tivo and we can. I don’t limit commercials because they are bad.

          Finally, the poem you included is lovely, and I agree with it, as well as your support of your daughter becoming whomever she’s meant to become. That anything I’ve said — or any other poster has said — suggests otherwise is baffling to me.

          OK

          I don’t mean this with malice, but you continue to make leaps in your arguments (1 hour of screens a day = a stiffled, sqelched dream), and to ignore the points of others (my kid turned into an angry zombie, or my kid didn’t come out of his room except to stuff his face and can’t hold a conversation), and to ignore the inconsistencies in your own approach (limits here, no limits there).

          Sorry if I can’t explain to you adequately what I am trying to express.

          Let’s agree to disagree.

          Best to you!

      3. Thanks for this, I had some similar questions.I love the points that have been made about parental involvement, we obviously all care about our kids and that is why we spend hours sprouting, soaking and fermenting our foods 🙂 Go Real Foodies!

        The one thing that is still hanging out there for me is that gaming is a real addiction actually similar to a pornography addiction in the way that one becomes addicted. And due to personal experience I feel strongly that others should are aware of this truth.
        As has already been stated media in and of itself is not good or bad but, I would add, it can be addicting, just like people can become addicted to eating. My husband has a pornography addiction and I attend a 12 step support group for spouses of porn-addicts. Many of these men also have gaming addictions(addicts frequently will abstain form one addiction only to pick up another because they aren’t really healing, just abstaining), I have also met many people who have eating addictions. I have seen marriages fall apart due to gaming addictions. My own marriage is ending due in part to addiction.This is real and destructive (worse than white sugar).

        I searched my 12 step book for the quote explaining how people become addicted to these types of things but can’t find it, so I will try to explain it in my own words. Basically our brains can get a rush of endorphins from different activities and they can become addicted (lose their ability to go with out it) to those chemicals that are produced by our own body just like someone gets addicted to the chemicals that are introduced into the body from alcohol and drugs. Chemicals produced by the body are just as addicting and even more so than meth and other hard drugs. I’m sure there is better explanations out there, but there is mine!

        And here is a website I just googled up: https://www.video-game-addiction.org/ I’m sure their are more if any one is interested.

        The addiction to gaming is real and can be very destructive to marriages and families and it doesn’t hurt to know about it so you can recognize the signs if it does become a problem in your family (I mean that generally).

        Peace!

        1. P.S.
          People do over use the term addicted I know I have said, “My son is addicted to TV after being sick all week and doing nothing but watching it.”
          But that is not addiction and that is what I wanted to clarify.
          Thanks!

    2. I’m sorry Annie but your opinion makes me think of that old saying (and I’ll clean it up here), “Opinions are like rear ends: Everyone has one and they usually stink.

      1. Oh Susan, don’t be silly — You’re not sorry at all! : )

        Though I admit I understand your snarkiness even less than I understand you’re reasoning (since you didn’t provide any.)

        If you don’t like how pointed I was, the reason is that I got frustrated that 99% of what was being said was being overlooked or misrepresented. So I wanted to group the points together and see if we could get a response to move on to the next level of discussion.

  67. You wake some very valid points. I would like to share why we limit screen time. Firstly, limit, does not mean never gets to play on. And it doesn’t mean only 5 minutes a day of screen time. It means boundaries are set as to what is seen/done and how long someone is in front of a screen.

    You mentioned Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. I am curious though how much time they actually spend/spent in front of a screen. When Steve was tinkering with computers, it was not just the screen he was watching. He was building and taking apart computers. Bill Gates, how many business meetings does he attend? How did he learn personable skills? Most likely when he was interacting with people. Admittedly, I am sure many meeting he attends now are via Skype and therefore in front of a screen, but this time is spent in personal interaction and not necessarily in his own world researching or playing games. And again after he has spent years in actual person to person meetings and has developed social skills of personal interaction.

    One of the main reasons we limit our screen time is to make sure, especially at the younger ages where a child can become completely consumed with screen time and still needs encouragement and guideance, is to ensure they get human interaction. I was listening to a man talk about job interviews on the radio. I wish I could remember the source. He said 65% of young people who show up for a job do not have the social skills to be hired for the job. Many texted during the interview, did not dress appropriately, and were even late for the interview. (Can anyone relate to losing track of time when on the Internet checking email, researching, or even writing blog posts?) I am curious how that statistic will grow after FB and Twitter has been in the entire life of a person, not just their college years.

    Yes, screen time has a MAJOR place in our lives and the lives of our children. Without it, they will not be able to function in the future. Social media has created a fundamental shift in the way we communicate. That being said though, I truly believe those with limited screentime will have time to learn desperately needed social skills that will put them ahead of those who do not learn to set boundaries on screentime. Not to mention the important lesson of “everything in moderation.” ( Sorry, had to throw that in there, this being a blog that talks about that.)

  68. I absolutely limit screen time! My girls are 6 and 10 and they have been brought up media-free for the most part. They are incredibly imaginative and do not miss TV or video games because they are not really aware of them. I wouldn’t have it any other way and I do not think they are missing out or going to be any less competent at computers than anyone else.

    My husband was the first kid in his middle school with a computer (in 1983) and he was in 6th grade. Now he is a software developer. Even though he was the ripe old age of 12 when he started using computers he still managed to excel in his career. This argues against the need for setting a kid up on computers at a tender age. And computers are much more user-friendly now so one could start even later and catch up in a week.

    When you talk about screen time you have to qualify what you are saying by age. What is good and works for a 12 year old is completely different than what works for a 6 year old. I do not agree with allowing a 6 year old to sit in front of any screen. At 10, 11 or so I think it’s ok to allow a little (like my 10 year old watched some of the summer olympics). Unfortunately so many kids are exposed to so much media there is some peer pressure for them as they get older.

    And remember that content is one one aspect of this conversation. One can argue about content (Shakespeare vs. Sopranos) all day but to me that is all moot. What I want is for my kids to experience the world with their senses. This means from age 1-7 engaging in movement and being in a beautiful environment as often as possible. That doesn’t mean I exercised my kids at age 4. It means I let them play as much as possible with as few props as possible. Simple beauty and simple toys incite so much more imagination than an screen image ever will.

    Also, the images that come through media, no matter how benign or educational, are deeply imprinted in a child’s mind. These images are very strong and offer no room for original creation. A book does. A walk in the woods does. Sitting on the driveway watching inchworms does.

    The other issue with screen time is that it is very insidious. I can spot the children who have been exposed to media very easily. It is almost as if they become prisoners to the sounds and images. They pervade every aspect of the child’s life and affect how they talk and how they play. And when very young children are exposed you can even sometimes see it in their physical development.

    And this stuff is on a slippery slope. All too often people think they’ll just show their kids a little bit and then it escalates because the stuff is addictive (for adults as well). I have seen this with my kids. My husband let them play with his ipad a few times and now they want it all the time. And the reason why I don’t want them using it all the time is because I think there are more important things for them them to do, including just sitting outside and staring at the sky.

  69. AM- You’re right. Why teach kids that computers and televisions are bad? Why give them such a negative message? It’s like food. Why put moral attitudes toward food? This is good and that is bad. It will just make the child shamefully eat what they desire, which is never good. But if they know they can eat all foods, they will let their own bodies regulate things. Likewise with computers and televisions. Teach them it is bad and they will feel guilty relaxing to a movie, or a favorite show of theirs. They might have a ” better watch a lot now,or forever hold their peace” type of thing going on.

    Personally, when I look back at the television shows I watched when I was younger, it really warms my heart. Especially if I see a rerun on. Those shows defined a generation. My dad feels that way too. When he thinks back to “Happy Days” and ” The Andy Griffith Show” his heart warms. He would say ” those were the days.” My dad feels he is Fonzie and he’s always saying “step into my office.” What’s wrong with that? I don’t want that taken away from my child, I think it’s great. Those shows are soothing to the soul, and resonate with people for different reasons. My mom and dad tell stories of how “Who’s the Boss” was on when they first started dating. They would curl up on Tuesday nights and watch it together. And because that show was on for 8 seasons, they also continued that curling up right through marriage. Looking back on it mom laughs, she “can’t believe clothes like that were ever popular.” She had pictures of herself dressed that way. Talk about defining a generation!

    It’s just about balance. Let your kid do everything in balance. It will help him to learn balance for his own adult life. Sure, I’d love to be on the computer or watch television for many hours a day. Those are my enjoyments, and I do learn some cool and exciting stuff. Who says you can’t learn with those modes of entertainment? But if I were doing that and ignoring things that needed to be done…like laundry, sleeping or eating.. we would very soon have a problem.

    So let your child do what fascinates him, but teach him he has to enter the world every now and again too. That’s what my parents did for me, and I love them for it.

    1. @Nicole

      Aww that is sooo cute about your parents! How sweet!

      I have a lot of good memories of TV shows, too. Certain shows remind me of certain times of my life. In college I went through a Thirtysomething phase, an LA Law phase, and for a while I watched every episode of Northern Exposure (still one of my favorite shows).

      Just before I met my husband, I was in a Gilmore Girls phase. What a great show that was. I was so sad when it ended. I hope to watch it one day with my daughter — or whatever the current show is that she loves.

      We also love Jeopardy and The Simpsons, 30 Rock, Mad Men (my absolute favorite). I just started watching Breaking Bad — my husband’s all-time favorite after The Sopranos.

      1. OMG!! Gilmore Girls is another show my daughter and I watch diligently! We were crushed when it ended! You like cool stuff, AM!! I’m coming to your house cause you like good shows, have good food and I like your rules!! 🙂

          1. I’m only in Temecula, so I can be there in an hour and a half! (well, if there’s no traffic!) I’ll come in my jammies because I know you won’t care and I’ll bring all my Gilmore Girls DVDs.

            Oh, and I forgot another reason I would like it at your house: Cause I can hurl the F word around and I won’t be reprimanded for it! (I’ll be good around Kate, however!)

  70. I’m only going to respond to this article with saying that there is always a healthy balance. I don’t think TV is a monster nor do I think that a computer is the next thing to satan. However, there is something to be said to “limiting” the amounts they are exposed to. Science has shown the major difference in a functioning of the brain when reading compared to watching TV. There is a difference between a mode of communication that is stimulating reason and cognitive ability of the brain and just being plain entertained. We are homeschoolers and are totally okay with limited screen time. If you haven’t already you should read Amusing Ourselves to Death. It’s not a “TV is so bad book.” It’s actually a look back through history at early American public discourse. The author draws some great contrasts between oral, reading, and written epistemology and “information packed” technology that is here for a minute and gone in an instant beginning with the telegraph.

    1. @Kyla

      I think what unschooling is really about is letting children learn to self-limit. Letting them learn about consequences based on making their own decisions.

      I’ll check out the book.

      1. That’s the reason why I don’t unschool. I have a very different viewpoint as far as the self-limiting is concerned. There’s a big argument to be said about the ability of children to self-limit. You can take something like that pretty far and it can be dangerous. I personally don’t think it’s logical. Self-control is a character trait that is taught and can obviously be learned through experience however, what type of experiences will children have to endure on their own before they realize that what they are doing isn’t good for them? In guiding them on how to use self-control in the beginning years they will have a better understanding when they reach the age of reason. Most of our education is based off good old reading, writing, and arithmetic 🙂 Another great book is Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right From Wrong. It challenges the “Romantics” concepts of education as well as the Rational concepts of education. I believe that health lies within the balance of both.

      2. I used to know a gal who did unschooling with her kids. Her 12 year old son of average intelligence could not read, nor could his 10 yr old brother. They sat around watching tv and playing video games ALL day. They didn’t express interest in learning to read so she didn’t teach them. Her 5 yr old daughter was grossly obese to the point of being unable to perform normal activities; swing, run, climb stairs without effort- all because mom thought it was fine to let her self regulate with food. The daughter was also a complete bully who would push, hit, and snatch toys from other kids to the point that we and others stopped coming over to protect our children. She felt her daughter would learn good behavior via natural consequences etc. She didn’t. My point is to observe your child closely and honestly assess whether your approach is really working. Some philosophies look great on paper, but in real life, not so much.

  71. Hi there,

    I think you give a very good argument but….My kids went to Waldorf Schools so we limited screen time quite a bit. My reason for young kids in particular is that screen entertainment is mostly a very passive activity. Also, I believe that one of the most important activities a child can do is imaginative play. They need to imagine things that they create by themselves in their heads and not from the TV. Play is scientifically proved to be important for problem solving in the future. Creativity is deeply affected by too much screen time. Also, screen activity is very fast paced and kids get used to that pace. I’ll never forget going to a robot exhibit at a museum with my younger son and two of his ‘media’ friends. My son could slowly enjoy the exhibit but the other two needed so much stimulation to keep them interested. That kind of thing happened repeatedly. I would limit the screen time with young kids and then when they get older (around 11) they can begin to have more.

    1. Would you mind posting about your thoughts on the potential negative neurological impacts in this situation? I’d be interested to hear that side of the issue addressed.

  72. Oops, accidentally put this in the wrong place…

    Would you mind posting about your thoughts on the potential negative neurological impacts in this situation? I’d be interested to hear that side of the issue addressed by you.

    Even if you don’t have a university id, you can read certain scholarly articles and at the very least read the abstracts for free to better shore up your argument. Happy researching!

    1. I would be interested in that, too. From what I have read, television puts your brain into the idle, alpha state.

  73. It’s just too dam addictive. My kids happen to be artists. They spend literally hours on art. When they are on the computer it is zone out time and they would gladly spend all their time on the TV and computer if allowed. I have flirted with unschooling extensively and I have tremendous regret about NOT intervening…Kids need parental input. I know the drill…if they don’t discover it themselves the learning won’t stick. Yes, somewhat true, but if you ascribe to that theory then don’t stop them when they discover heroin and unprotected sex. I have come to the conclusion that they can certainly learn from their parents and they need to learn to accept that sometimes there are limits on their behavior. It’s a life lesson.

  74. I was unschooled and totally get the idea of child led learning. But we absolutely limit screen time.

    We don’t have a TV and don’t miss it, but occasionally we watch movies or TV shows on our computer, which is nice since you miss commercials. My husband likes to play computer games after work sometimes as a relaxing activity, I spend some time on the internet daily. My thirteen year old stepson would spend every waking moment playing video games and watching movies. I feel it severely limits his creativity, he is a great artist but would far prefer zoning out to drawing something.

    Unlimited screen time might be fine for some kids but there are lots of children where it is detrimental, it’s a choice that needs to be made on an individual basis on what works best for each family.

  75. We do, and for a very good reason. We have a son with Asperger’s, and we also homeschool. He was spending upwards of 12 hours/day on his PS3, pretty much playing two games: Modern Warfare 3, and Nazi Zombies.

    He went from being a slender, muscular gymnast 8-year-old to slightly pudgy at 10, because he’d quit gymnastics after breaking his arm during the season and we weren’t going to pay $200/month in fees and much more than that to travel to meets so he could watch his teammates. He was in ballet for awhile and baseball, but when he got his PS3, he didn’t want to do anything else.

    He sat on the couch for hours daily, snarling at anyone who broke his concentration. He gained all kinds of weight for the first time in his life.

    He’d been pretty advanced academically. After two years of this, he no longer was. People had caught up with him, and since he wasn’t actively exploring anymore, he lost a lot of his math skills from disuse.

    So last year he decided to play football, as the result of a murder mystery theatre thing he’d done with the youth group we were forcing him to attend (to get him off of the couch before it stuck to him!). He was 14 and 200 lbs.

    Knowing he was going to play football, and having seen a picture of himself and been shocked, he cut grains, potatoes, and sugar sources from his diet. He started loosing roughly 20 lbs. a month so that by the time the callouts happened he weighed 145. He looked a lot better, felt a lot better (no longer depressed) and his insomnia stopped.

    By the end of the season he weighed 120. He’d also gotten excited about learning again, and decided on his own to take a chemistry class a la carte at a homeschooling academy. He finally finished an algebra course he’d started at 12, and then zipped through 2nd year algebra before the end of the school year.

    This summer he’s playing football again, having been conditioning with the team since January. He’s back up to 135, but that’s because of lifting weights. He still doesn’t eat grains or potatoes or sources of sugars (natural or otherwise). He’s over halfway through an Honors Geometry course he started this summer and into his second year of German, and taking 3 courses through the same homeschooling academy. We’re unschoolers, but he likes the challenge of taking a course and likes being at the top of the class.

    Over the summer, he started playing on his PS3 again, and quickly started falling into his old patterns. He realized it and put the breaks on it. He *does* get onto the computer a lot, but is generally looking up information or learning programming/modding games/hacking something.

    His challenge right now is time management. Our kids are college-bound, so he has three more years at home to learn how to fulfill obligations. He spent his early childhood freely exploring, reading (tons), and playing. He went off the rails for a couple of years, pretty much entertaining himself–he’s not interested in getting a doctorate in WWII alternate history, so there was not a whole lot of redeeming value in the thousands of hours he spent on the couch with his PS3. I *do* think the time he spent on Assassin’s Creed was more constructive, because it’s very historically-accurate on Renaissance Italy. But compared to the amount of exploring and reading he did before, really not so much. And sorry, it *did* do a number on his weight and muscles. Maybe it doesn’t for some lucky kids. I would never had dreamed that my son, with his visible six-pack at ages 2-8, would ever have become as overweight as he did!

  76. This is a very interesting idea. Like everything else, everyone is different. Some kids get bored with t.v. and can self-regulate their t.v. watching, while others, like my kids, are totally consumed by it and can literally watch it all day long. However, as Cheeseslave mentioned in the above comments, watching French shows helped her learn to speak French. My kids love to learn new Spanish words (thanks to Dora and Diego) and are so excited to teach me the new words they’ve learned. So, I’ve found our local Spanish PBS channel and I’m going to experiment with them watching unlimited Spanish only, commercial-free, kids shows. Also, it’s important to note that, generally speaking, kids that are allowed to watch t.v. all day long often have parents that tend to be neglectful, non-interactive, or just plan don’t take an interest in their child’s lives. It could be that many of these negative effects of t.v. are directly proportional to poor parenting and lack of family involvement. I wonder if t.v. would really be considered detrimental when evaluated within a nurturing, stimulating, active home environment? The Cheeseslave household seems to be a good example.

  77. I think that unschooling is awesome. I think that screen time *specifically* is a strange thing to focus on. Unschooling is a much bigger picture than that. You say that you are having structure in other areas so I assume you mean that you aren’t entirely unschooling. I have heard compelling arguments for why you can’t pick and choose certain things to unschool and certain things to not.

    I also think that the “Taco Bell” comment was totally unnecessary, inflammatory and potentially hurtful and discouraging. I was enjoying this post and felt like it really ended on a bad note.

  78. I would have to say that I disagree with your opinion. However, I do give you props for having the courage to openly discuss your point of view–you had to have known that you’d be getting lots of rebuttals.

    Firstly, lectronics can be very addicting. Some people are at the point where they cannot function without it. It is their sole means of communicating with others. I think that is very sad. I believe that offering children unlimited access would foster addictions in many of them.

    Secondly, I also believe that younger generations–myself included–do not know the real meaning of WORK. The youth of today are so soft, I shudder to think what would happen if hard times fell on us. Most do not know the labors of spending hours tilling up a garden, planting, harvesting, and then preserving the food in some way–canning, dehydrating, fermenting. Most do not know the back-breaking labor or shoveling sh*t out of a chicken coop or barn, carrying buckets of water, or hauling bales of hay. The time and energy to hunt a deer and then process it. Most of us are are content to watch tv and eat boxed food made in some factory.

    I do know that play and imagination are important for developing minds, but I also know that knowing the value of a hard days work is just as valuable. Yes, people like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg made a fortune on technology…but is that something that really benefits our society. I do use the internet to learn many things–how to properly grow and prepare foods for example. But you have to wonder: if our society wasn’t so hooked on technology, would I even have a need for learning these things via the internet? Would these things maybe instead have been taught to me by my mother and father?

    Finally, I use myself as an example. I never had tv/video games limited as a child. I played all I want–and play I did! I was a nintendo addict. Tetris, Super Mario Brothers, Legend of Zelda. I played them all from the minute I got home til I was bored–for hours a day. And don’t get me started on summers. By the time I graduated, I was 5’5″ and weighed over 180 pounds. I attribute part of this to my diet–packaged, processed foods, and partly to my inactivity.

    I don’t think technology is as wonderful as some would like to think.

  79. Agreed. An unschooling environment is supposed to be rich with academic space. For example, maps on the walls, definitions of parts of speech on the bulletin boards and rich children’s literature on the book shelves. Children will naturally gravitate towards these things especially great books that teach great ideas. However, if children are allowed limitless modes of entertainment, then they will naturally gravitate towards those as well. There needs to be some form of moderation involved. To say that every child who has been exposed to limitless amounts of TV and computer time will all grow up to be a Steve Jobs or Bill Gates is not accurate. The modes of public discourse has changed through out the course of history. People, including our children, are so enveloped with large amounts of information, most of it is incomprehensible because it is communicated in modes of flashing images that are here for a second and gone again.

  80. I think it’s wonderful that you’re always looking slay scared cows, but don’t forget CA is one of the toughest states to home school in. School Officials could make your family’s life incredibly difficult if they saw this blog. In fact, not having to bow down to state authorities kept us from living in NYC. We could home school however we saw fit in NJ.

  81. Thank you so much for this post! I did read some of the comments and do agree there may be some children may need a bit more structure when it comes to TV/internet time, but I don’t think everyone does. My Anna is homeschooled and as a family we love sci-fi shows and Korean Drama. We spend alot of time on the internet. My husband works from home on his computer and was one of those young adults who played games constantly in his spare time. I will admit there are some days where I will insists we all do something away from the computer/tv together. My daughter has unlimited screen time and there will be times where I will catch her writing a script or making a video. She gets alot of ideas and learns alot on her own. She Skypes with other homeschooled friends. She also dances about 5 hours a week or more and loves it.

    All the articles about limited screen time was making me question our views on this subject. I was thrilled to see I am not the only one on the other side.

  82. My two year old and four year old probably watch about six or seven hours of TV a day, but they would prefer to watch even more than that. Though if I was going to let them watch unlimited I’d have to supplement with DVDs because we only get PBS and they don’t have children’s programming on in the evenings. I think the idea that all kids would get bored with TV if they could watch it unrestricted is not true. My kids have been watching this much TV for a couple years now and they are not bored. Once in awhile they will lose interest and start playing with something else, but they’re still watching hours upon hours. I fluctuate on how guilty I feel about this. On the one hand, it is also PBS and they’ve learned so much and I keep being impressed by my four year old’s vocab and his ability to talk about scientific concepts. On the other hand, 6 or 7 hours is a lot and I’m sure enough to earn me one of the deepest levels of parenting hell.

  83. I really like your blog, but this post seems a bit of a stretch. I’m starting to see that you like to be a little controversial, which is fine, it does make people think 🙂 This post made me question my views on the subject. What you didn’t talk much about is helping children make wise choices in what they play and watch…. screen time in and of itself may not be harmful but playing violent video games or watching violence on tv definitely is.

    The sad reality that I’ve seen in my life is that young men get addicted to playing video games at the expense of personal relationships; their lives are unbalanced. Personally, I’d much rather have my children lead balanced lives than to be super successful in one area. Most people who have had wild success don’t seem like very happy people.

    1. @Lindsey

      Personally, I’d much rather have my children lead balanced lives than to be super successful in one area.

      You may want to consider that that is not your choice to make.

  84. Okay, I think to balance this article, you must read Joseph Chilton Pearce’s book called “Evolution’s End: Claiming the Potential of our Intelligence.” I have taken his workshops, and they are full of scientific evidence that children’s brains are not wired the same way as adult’s brains, and that for all of the time that a child sits in front of a screen, absolutely ZERO neural pathways are being created, yes ZERO. Yet if they are told a story or fairy tale and create the image in their minds instead of having it created for them by the TV, then neural pathways are being created, and when they ask to hear the story again, the neural pathways are myelinated, or become stronger. I am a Waldorf teacher, and we can see the ill effects TV, computer games, etc., has on a child’s imagination and ability to concentrate because we have students in our classes whose family’s do not expose them to media, and then we have the ones who do, and it is always obvious, but not in the way that you think. It is not only the content of what the children watch, it is the media itself, where their eyes, that are meant to be in constant motion stay still when staring at a screen. Also, it is the cultural media of consumerism that is so strongly promoted to our children that also must be considered.

    1. Hence, Einstein’s quote: “If you want your children to be intelligent, tell them fairy tales. If you want them to be even more intelligent, tell them more fairy tales. Imagination is more important than knowledge.” I consider TV similar to how I consider GMO’s and the “newfangled foods.” We have only had this type of media around since 1950, and I for one, am not going to allow my children’s minds to be usurped by the TV, when there is mounting evidence that it hinders brain development and the ability to concentrate in children.

      1. By the way, my 2 year old and 5 year old have rarely been exposed to the TV. My son did see a movie last summer called Ponyo, which he can still remember, but other than that, they do not watch anything unless we go into Costco and there is something on the screen. We do not have a TV by choice or an iphone, just a computer. My son is constantly complemented on how polite, kind, sweet-tempered, caring, and observant of his surroundings by adults who know him well. Being a Waldorf teacher, I have chosen not to expose him to academic learning until he is 7, but somehow, he has already taught himself how to read many words and numbers, and is very spatially aware, knowing his directions of left, right, etc.

  85. Two physiological reasons: prolonged alpha state and raised cortisol levels in the brain. Both unnatural and detrimental.

    https://voices.yahoo.com/your-brain-waves-change-watch-tv-low-alpha-349221.html?cat=25

    https://sidawson.org/2011/03/tv-is-heroin-crossed-with-hypnosis.html

    https://bongobaby.myshopify.com/pages/television-and-its-impact-on-childrens-brains

    https://peacefulparadox.hubpages.com/hub/cortisol-kills-brain-cells-by-the-millions

    It doesn’t take much to find conclusive studies showing excessive screen time is not the best for a developing mind. Not to mention the very real issue of subliminal messaging that can fill your brain in the alpha state.

    Also, while we don’t personally do Waldorf style in our learning, but your dismissive opinion of it is simply ignorance. The Waldorf style of learning aims to encompass developing the whole human being, not just information and skills. Their approach of teaching uses the whole person to integrate information, thus using many parts of the mind and body and spirit.

    Waldorf survey: https://www.whywaldorfworks.org/documents/Survey_WaldorfGraduates.pdf

    You are free to raise your child how ever you see fit, but some of the statements you are making are really just based upon lack of information and understanding. You are welcome to express your opinion, but the manner in which you express things at times, without looking at all the facts, really doesn’t make for helpful or enjoyable reading material.

  86. great, get your kid to program or draw/write cartoons. there is more involved than just sitting in front of the t.v. zoning out; there is an element of critical thinking involved. tv tends to be a short cut to thinking. get your kids to research animation if they love cartoons. get them to research graphic design if games are their thing. Piquing an interest by way of tv is great, but kids are not going to be great animators/writers from solely watching hours of the simpsons.
    the author of this blog is implying a lot and making numerous arguments. she is also implying one thing while using examples from something else. let’s take the example of the 8 year old programmer. yup, the kid sat at a computer and discovered that he digs it, so mom then bought books and he learned more about actual programming than just sitting in front of a screen. great, but reality check… most 8 year olds are not brilliant programmers. i mean really? mark z, bill gates, and apparently the 8 year old prodigy are few and far between. expose kids to an array of things, places, events, etc…. i mean, i hated reading as a child… i now have a B.A. in literature and an MEd.

    i think, through all the haze that is presented here, that i see the argument, but it took a lot of “fill in the blanks” on my part. establishing an actual argument that has a single purpose and point makes a world of difference when trying to convince poeple of something.

    1. “Let’s start with the argument that screen time makes you fat and unhealthy. This is a ridiculous argument.

      Mark Twain, one of my heroes, wrote his books in bed. He wasn’t fat and he was perfectly healthy.”

      is this seriously evidence of anything? i didn’t know mark twain had “screen time” number one, and um, is this the basis of a logical argument? it’s like saying “water is bad and leads to murder. 100% of serial killers drank water. fact”

      1. @zen

        is this the basis of a logical argument? it’s like saying “water is bad and leads to murder. 100% of serial killers drank water. fact”

        That’s not the same argument at all.

        I didn’t say: “Lying around is good and leads to great novels. Mark Twain wrote in his bed. Fact.”

        I said: There are plenty of examples of people who are NOT FAT and lie around or day or spend many hours in front of a screen.

        1. PS: If you want to try to disprove this argument:

          I said: There are plenty of examples of people who are NOT FAT and lie around or day or spend many hours in front of a screen.

          I’d like to see it.

    2. @zen

      great, get your kid to program or draw/write cartoons.

      Good luck getting kids to do anything unless and until they find something that inspires them.

      there is more involved than just sitting in front of the t.v. zoning out; there is an element of critical thinking involved. tv tends to be a short cut to thinking.

      I don’t agree that TV is a shortcut to thinking. PLease see the article I posted from NY Times above re: 24 and how it requires more thought.

      get your kids to research animation if they love cartoons. get them to research graphic design if games are their thing. Piquing an interest by way of tv is great, but kids are not going to be great animators/writers from solely watching hours of the simpsons.

      I never said they would be. Did you see my comment above that John Lennon spent 2 days solid listening to one record?

      the author of this blog is implying a lot and making numerous arguments. she is also implying one thing while using examples from something else. let’s take the example of the 8 year old programmer. yup, the kid sat at a computer and discovered that he digs it, so mom then bought books and he learned more about actual programming than just sitting in front of a screen. great, but reality check… most 8 year olds are not brilliant programmers. i mean really? mark z, bill gates, and apparently the 8 year old prodigy are few and far between. expose kids to an array of things, places, events, etc…. i mean, i hated reading as a child… i now have a B.A. in literature and an MEd.

      most 8 year olds are not brilliant programmers

      HOW DO YOU KNOW?

      Maybe they would be if their parents didn’t restrict their screen time.

      How many parents do you know would let their kids spend 10,000 hours in front of a screen in middle/high school? That’s 40 hours per week for 5 years straight. I know very few parents who would allow that.

      And is it any wonder we have so few exceptional wonder kids?

      i think, through all the haze that is presented here, that i see the argument, but it took a lot of “fill in the blanks” on my part. establishing an actual argument that has a single purpose and point makes a world of difference when trying to convince poeple of something.

      Maybe you should go start your own blog. You sound like a frustrated writer.

  87. I am of two minds about this topic… I get what you’re saying and I’m all for that 10,000 hours. And I certainly would not have been able to learn and perfect some of my skills without the internet as a resource.

    But what if a kid is a potential genius in some other area, but that genius is squelched because he becomes addicted to video games? I’m so glad that, say, YoYo Ma did not spend his 10,000 hours on the computer. I have personally know people have have done may tens of thousands of hours on video games, and have ended up struggling with the rest of their lives because they don’t have any other well-honed skills.

    It seems that the number of kids who spend the majority of their time on computers compared to the number of people who are entrepreneurial computer geniuses is not an even ratio. They can’t ALL be game/web/software designers. And yet most kids, if given the chance, will gravitate toward video games if allowed. Who’s going to be inspired to study nature or the Constitution or deep sea diving?

    it comes down to the fact that we all have to be the expert in our own family and decide what is best for our own children. I’m happy limiting screen time for my kids because I see that is best for them. My 7 year old is a precocious reader and has gone through many in-depth learning obsessions from oceanography to World War II to ancient Egypt. However, if I had let him have unlimited screen time, I’m pretty sure he would have missed so much of that. Sure, it’s all available on the internet, but he can’t exactly find that stuff at 5,6,7 years old. When he’s old enough to use the internet as a resource for his education, he will certainly have far fewer restrictions.

    Anyway, thanks for the thought-provoking post. I’ve been mulling it over for the last couple of days. I love how other people’s thoughts and opinions help me crystallize my own.

  88. I have read all the unschooling anti-tv stuff over the years and I am still not convinced. I am a relaxed/eclectic homeschooler and unlimited screen time does not enrich my children’s lives or make them happier so I limit it. I have noticed that boys seem to have a harder time than girls with screens from observing my children and talking to other parents. My 4yo girl gets bored and walks away but my 8yo son never has enough. Some kids can handle it and some can’t.

    “If we restrict our kids’ computer and TV time, maybe we’ll feel better in the short term, knowing that they are spending more time riding bikes and soaking up vitamin D. Maybe they’ll also never end up writing for The Simpsons or winning an Emmy or designing computer games or making $100K+ in Silicon Valley or starting a multi-billion dollar computer company.

    I guess there are always jobs at Taco Bell.”

    I hope that last bit was just for a reaction and not what you really believe. I am not afraid that my kids will end up working at Taco Bell if I don’t allow them unlimited screen time. Most adults I know that are totally into video games/computers/TV are not exactly brillant inventors/programmers/writers. Their lives seem to revolve around doing as little as possible and smoking a lot of pot. I want more for my children than that and I know they are capable of more.

    “It should be noted that going to see plays by Shakespeare or Wilde were the equivalent of watching TV in that era.”

    Watching plays is not the equivelent of TV. Plays were not going on 24/7/365 with the click of a button. I would imagine that they are quite infrequent especially for the common people. I would also imagine that most entertainment required creavitity from all family members–playing music, dancing, reciting poems ect.

    The logic in this post reminds me of how people justify eating lots of junk because they know someone who did and they lived to be 100. The examples you mention are definately exceptions.

    1. @Jen

      I hope that last bit was just for a reaction and not what you really believe. I am not afraid that my kids will end up working at Taco Bell if I don’t allow them unlimited screen time. Most adults I know that are totally into video games/computers/TV are not exactly brillant inventors/programmers/writers. Their lives seem to revolve around doing as little as possible and smoking a lot of pot. I want more for my children than that and I know they are capable of more.

      Most potheads I know are not very ambitious, productive or successful. So I don’t think you can say that video games are to blame for the people you know who also happen to be smoking pot.

  89. After spending more than 90 minutes reading through all the responses to this post, (yes, I chose my own screen time!) I feel there are a couple of important points being missed:

    1. Choices = Self-Respect – Allowing your child to make their own choices is critical to helping them learn to actually do it. Screen time is only one small aspect of this. Decisions made by children regarding food choices, clothing, extracurricular activities, etc. all contribute to a sense of self-worth that no one (not even their parents) can give to them. Having a sense of healthy self-respect is much more important than learning to follow rules. Everyone can learn to follow rules if there is enough negative outside influence; but to create your own self-made personal restrictions based on what you feel is going to work for you (or family values, or your spiritual path, etc.) is something altogether different.

    I acknowledge that lots of these decisions are dictated by maturity, as what a 6yo would choose will be entirely different than what a 17yo would choose, but I do not personally believe that it should make any difference; they are both individuals choosing what they need. My 11yo makes very different screen time choices than my 17yo. They both love to be on the computer, but my 17yo is on Facebook socializing and my 11yo is on Warcraft. It doesn’t matter much to me what they are doing; what matters to me is that they are self-regulating. They have been allowed to self-regulate for a long time now (the 11yo really doesn’t remember before we started unschooling) and they are *over* the obsessive stage. It is my belief that children who do not self-regulate well are that way because they have not been allowed to do so much, if at all. ALso, my kids make good choices as to what they do on the computer/television because we always are talking about what they are doing. They respect that I don’t want to see rated R movies playing in my living room; that I don’t like violent video games, etc. They understand that it makes for a happier household if they respect how others feel about their own actions. To me, this is really the critical point, not how much time they are spending on it.

    2. Children Learn by Example – If you want your kids to have limited screen time, you’d certainly better be limiting it for yourself. Parental hypocrisy is a surefire way of destroying any respectful relationship you’d wish to have with your kids.

    3. Unschooling does not equal Unparenting – I’ve been an unschool parent for over 10 years. Contrary to popular belief, unschooling takes WAY more time and energy than conventional curriculum-based homeschooling. (I spent the first ten years of my home school doing curriculum-based learning; yes, I’ve been home schooling for over 20 years.) Unschooling requires more engagement, not less. As part of the unschooling lifestyle, I’m following my children’s interests (they are now ages 21, 18, 17, 14, and 11) closely, and helping each of them grow into the unique people that they are with loving care and lots of guidance. Not much different than most parents, except that I am NOT dictating to them what they should learn; that is up to them. And believe me, they are all at very different places in their journeys, both maturity-wise and interest-wise. That takes a lot of patience and and a lot of courage (and energy!) on the part of the parent!

    Thanks for your post, Ann Marie. I hope my insights will help you smooth your way on your unschool journey. 🙂

    1. @Kim

      Wow, what a powerful comment. I really wish you had written this post, not me!

      I’m going to respond to it point by point because what you have written is so important, and your words bear repeating.

      1. Choices = Self-Respect – Allowing your child to make their own choices is critical to helping them learn to actually do it. Screen time is only one small aspect of this. Decisions made by children regarding food choices, clothing, extracurricular activities, etc. all contribute to a sense of self-worth that no one (not even their parents) can give to them. Having a sense of healthy self-respect is much more important than learning to follow rules. Everyone can learn to follow rules if there is enough negative outside influence; but to create your own self-made personal restrictions based on what you feel is going to work for you (or family values, or your spiritual path, etc.) is something altogether different.

      So well said! Especially the part I bolded. Anyone can learn to follow rules. Anyone can do what’s right and avoid doing what’s wrong to stay out of jail, keep a job, etc.

      But it takes a lot more to be able to march to the beat of your own drummer. To have the wherewithal to start a company, start a movement or a charity, do your own thing even when it goes against what the rest of the world says is right.

      I agree 100% that what we are trying to foster here is self respect, self confidence and belief in oneself. Show your kids that they are not capable of making their own decisions and that is what is what they will believe. Show them that you trust them to do what is best and that you know they are wise and capable and that is what they will believe.

      Most adults I know make decisions based on what others think, what other people do, what they hear from authorities. They don’t choose freely for the most part. They don’t research and come to their own conclusions.

      “I have to limit my consumption of saturated fat because the media says so.”

      “I hate my job but everyone has to have a job — I just have to make the best of it.”

      “I’d love to do X but what would the neighbors/my friends/my coworkers think?”

      I acknowledge that lots of these decisions are dictated by maturity, as what a 6yo would choose will be entirely different than what a 17yo would choose, but I do not personally believe that it should make any difference; they are both individuals choosing what they need. My 11yo makes very different screen time choices than my 17yo. They both love to be on the computer, but my 17yo is on Facebook socializing and my 11yo is on Warcraft. It doesn’t matter much to me what they are doing; what matters to me is that they are self-regulating. They have been allowed to self-regulate for a long time now (the 11yo really doesn’t remember before we started unschooling) and they are *over* the obsessive stage. It is my belief that children who do not self-regulate well are that way because they have not been allowed to do so much, if at all. ALso, my kids make good choices as to what they do on the computer/television because we always are talking about what they are doing. They respect that I don’t want to see rated R movies playing in my living room; that I don’t like violent video games, etc. They understand that it makes for a happier household if they respect how others feel about their own actions. To me, this is really the critical point, not how much time they are spending on it.

      Fabulous!

      Some people would say your 17-year-old is wasting time on Facebook. I’d say he’s building a network.

      When my husband was a kid, his parents never told him he couldn’t use curse words. They didn’t say “curse words are wrong and bad.” They just told him that some people don’t like curse words so he should be aware of that and not use curse words in front of those people. I think most of us don’t give kids credit for how smart they are.

      2. Children Learn by Example – If you want your kids to have limited screen time, you’d certainly better be limiting it for yourself. Parental hypocrisy is a surefire way of destroying any respectful relationship you’d wish to have with your kids.

      I can’t tell you how many times I see this. Parents limiting screentime and then the parents are sitting at the table in the restaurant answering email on their phone. Not fair. And it’s totally hypocritical.

      3. Unschooling does not equal Unparenting – I’ve been an unschool parent for over 10 years. Contrary to popular belief, unschooling takes WAY more time and energy than conventional curriculum-based homeschooling. (I spent the first ten years of my home school doing curriculum-based learning; yes, I’ve been home schooling for over 20 years.) Unschooling requires more engagement, not less. As part of the unschooling lifestyle, I’m following my children’s interests (they are now ages 21, 18, 17, 14, and 11) closely, and helping each of them grow into the unique people that they are with loving care and lots of guidance. Not much different than most parents, except that I am NOT dictating to them what they should learn; that is up to them. And believe me, they are all at very different places in their journeys, both maturity-wise and interest-wise. That takes a lot of patience and and a lot of courage (and energy!) on the part of the parent!

      Wonderful!

      Thank you so much for this comment.

  90. I think that for some people, kids included, certain “screen time activities” can become an addiction. So if you don’t limit that then you basically have a zombie on your hands. My husband was addicted to video games. He would use them to escape our relationship. When he didn’t want to talk to me, he’d escape to his video game. It was like his second mistress. Kids can become like that too. If they are choosing screens instead of relationships, or I should say if they are avoiding relationships to be doing video games or whatever activity then sorry I just don’t think that is good. I have read that book, “Outliers” and I don’t think every kid aspires to be a video game addict. There may be some who will go on to design cool video games, but who’s to say that by doing so, they aren’t just creating more addicts?

  91. Wow…well, to each our own for sure. I’ve never been concerned about obesity. The issues regarding how the electronic media can damage our kids’ minds and bodies are more pressing, in my mind. I won’t comment on why literature is superior to television, but I will say that a death of reading would be a terrible thing for humanity. For so many reasons, reading is good for the brain. Television watching can damage the brain, especially the developing brains of children with the high levels of dendrite activity. Additionally, it is worthwhile to study what happens in the brain when exposed to the repetitive flashing lights of the television, not to mention the problems associated with EMFs. That would apply to regular computer time, too. Lots to study.

    1. And I guess I do feel compelled to reply to your comment comparing Shakespeare with the Sopranos…the quality of which is not comparable at all. As a lover of great literature and Shakespeare, and someone who has tutored high school homeschoolers thru the bard’s plays, I see vast differences between that and other great classics and anything Hollywood has to offer. Anyone can sit down and “enjoy” just about anything on TV. The same cannot be said for a thoughtful comprehension of well-composed classic literature. Different animals altogether. Additionally, he brain has to work to read in a way that it does not work during the passive activity of watching TV. I don’t think being a nation of TV watchers since the early 1950s has done our culture much good. Ask enough people in our grandparents generation and they’ll use the term “dumbed down.” I agree. Yes, I’m a good book snob. Long live real books!

      1. Here’s a good overview of how TV watching affects brain waves, with many references:
        https://www.tvsmarter.com/documents/brainwaves.html

      2. Actually we have gotten a lot smarter since the 1950s

        See the Flynn Effect mentioned in the “gamifcation video” I posted above.

        Also please read this — How TV Makes You Smarter:

        https://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/24/magazine/24TV.html

        1. We are more technologically advance, but I don’t believe we are smarter. We certainly as a whole no longer think for ourselves. The food system is proof of that! The majority of the population just quietly obey whatever they are told by the “educated class” (doctors, scientist, ect). Common sense- for the most part- is non existent!

  92. The author’s reasoning did not convince me. There is a balance of healthy screen time, not every child is going to grow up to be Bill Gates. There are more people in this world who grew up staring at a screen that work in the technology field that have the social skills of a shrew. I have worked at two tech companies and I have seen them. They literally work in the dark and walk around looking at the ground. I am all for supporting my children’s interests but they need to have balance. Unlimited time is a bit extreme and from my personal expierences back fired. Definelty set up an environment for your techs child to grow but make sure they are diverse. With all things, unlimited can back fire! 🙂

  93. I was open minded enough to give this a read. I do not agree with it. You left out a critical point, which is the amount of EMF’s (electro magnetic fields) that these children are exposed to constantly, when unlimited time is allowed on the computer. EMF’s are linked to cancer. Add this to the growing number of younger children that are allowed to have cell phones as well. Do not forget that these are young, still developing brains that are being harmed from these EMF’s. Also, you suggest “The Sopranos” as art. While, as an adult, I agree that this was a well done series, in no way would I advocate that a child be allowed to watch it. You also suggest that children would seek out informative and education articles on the web; this is not going to happen, either. They will more likely choose a gaming site or something more appealing to their own age group. They’re far more likely to learn useful and beneficial things when playing outside, and with other children to learn socialization skills, not propped in front of a big screen. Sorry, I do not agree with this.

    1. What an incredible topic this is. After reading all the comments I don’t have have an opinion on this except family experience. I grew up with no tv until about age thirteen as did my sister (I am a SAHM and my sister is a Dr of veterinary medicine) My aunts, uncles and cousins mom and dad are engineers,professors, mathmaticians and some are millionaires owning computer companies. Family expectations played a big part in me wanting to do well academically. These expectations where totally self imposed and there was always a report card rivalry with my sister and I. She was the younger sibling and got straight A’s.

      When we finally got tv, my mom at this point was in school herself and did not want to fight the battle of tv regulation so she begrudgingly let us watch what we wanted. Although there where plenty of fights still when she thought we had had enough screen time. We took advantage and had the tv on all the time.

      High School was extremely difficult for me and I dropped out 3 times and changed school three times. My mom did try to save me through medicine and drs. (I was suicidal) but never academically. She let my grades be and had faith that when I found my own strength then the grades would improve. ****TV was my drug of choice**** Yes I was on many pills but for short (trail) periods of time but nothing worked as well as tv did. I remember with sitting at 3am in the morning watching reruns of Rosanne with blades pressed against my arms as I carved words like DEATH into my arms with tears streaming down my face. The self inflicted pain somehow numbing the internal turmoil that is teenage angst and somehow the rotten life of the Rosanne show somehow turned into humour was mind numbing.

      Thankfully I outgrew this phase of my life ( I found a passion – holistic health and environmental science) before age 18 and finished high school with honours. I then went on to College and was extremely happy and did very well. I watched little tv when pursuing my passions.

      My Mother, father, sister, husband all academics and watch little tv because they are pursuing what they are passionate about.

      My husband who was waldorf schooled with 3 other siblings watched little tv and only in his teenage years. He grew up building sheds (on his own) with solid foundations when he was 10. These “real” projects are still standing today. I find that he and his siblings are more emotionally stable than me and my sister growing up. I met him and thought he had the “perfect” farm life upbringing in the one room school house filled with gentle songs and art projects and letting their imaginations run wild without the corrupt “outside world” interfering.

      When talking about *self regulating* my husband is a fine specimen. He gets up at the brink of dawn, works 12 hours, comes home to do home renovations, goes to school part time, has time to help our 2 girls with homework, drive them to ballet, swimming or go to piano recitals, and be a husband, son and brother to his siblings (meaning he helps them out too). He works a lot, he does take vacations and some vacations are home reno vacations. He is a licensed mechanic and an electrician. Emotionally he is a solid rock. His memory is amazing and rarely studied for exams. He even got %100 on college courses. Not just exams but the entire semester he made absolutely *no mistakes*.

      When Ann Marie talks about passion it is almost obsessive in behaviour. This is how my husband is about his work.

      My self and my children .. we are still working on self regulating. But it seems that finding that passion might be the first step as it is what pulled me out my teenage dark abyss and away from the screens… That passion fills the emptiness that sucks people into unproductive numbing addictive behaviour.

      In college I shared a house with a few male students. Two just dropped out because of days and nights gaming. I never could understand it as they paid thousands of dollars to be there. Now I think that I have a clearer picture. One other housemate with his share of “baggage” managed to drop out and come back several times because of gaming and tv. He had come back and completed a program and actually found work in his field of study. He was also the one who had no mom and dad to run home too and was the most emotionally scarred. So I think after 3 months stuck in a basement with no personal hygiene, no friends, no sunlight, plenty of alcohol, and numbing screen time he finally had a fight of flight response and chose to fight.

  94. LOVE LOVE LOVE this! Times are changing and this is called evolving. I do enjoy a good balance though. Too much time indoors, without fresh air can do some crazy things to ya! And the other way around, I’ve found to be quite true as well! 🙂 I love sitting on my couch, with my laptop, researching, reading, learning, playing. It’s my dream to work from home…just me and my laptop. But it’s so hard to find work from home jobs. Maybe I’m just not looking in the right places. Anyone know more about work from home jobs? 🙂

  95. Yikes, this is terrifying to read. What about the part about effects of constant flashing information pouring into a developing brain? Where’s the argument against the research that shows the kind of harm this does? What about the need for children to be outdoors digging in the dirt and playing and moving their bodies and being physical (not just for weight issues). What about social interaction? What about the impact it has on a child’s creativity (YES, it’s true, children who watch a lot of TV play very differently then those who don’t, the latter having much more creativity in their play). Scary, scary, scary.

    1. Not to mention that the video games/computer games of today stimulants the same part of the brain as cocaine. This is why so many kids become addicted. Also games and tv put out kids in a trance state. That’s why kids with AdHd can sit for hours playing video games and watching tv and not sit for 2 minutes to read a book or listen to a teacher. I’ve seen the negative inpact in my own child. Tv and video gets contribute to ADHD. This is why you see so many llosa with ADHD now and you use to not.

  96. This is not evolution you fools. We’re not breeding a race of techo-chimps perfectly suited to space exploration or living underground. This is mind control. The shaping of society’s ideals, behaviour, taste, spending habits and voting choice by industry and government. It, along with schooling, strips the young mind of the level of attention span required to maintain an interest in a particular subject long enough to be a useful member of society – without which we’re just programmable little sheep, ignorant and easily manipulated. Our children need to know what is happening in our world and they need the tenacity to delve into the issues properly. This can ONLY come about from reading. Reading online is fine, provided the source is reputable but idling away the hours ‘exploring a medium’ is the biggest load of self-justifying crap i’ve heard all morning. It will be pure chance if any of these hooked in kids will turn into decent, well informed adults. They may well be rich but what good is that? the last thing the world needs is another rich fool.

    1. I (and MANY friends) have only the internet to thank for waking me up to concepts like mind control and all of its political trappings. Years ago, the internet opened up an entirely new world to me and played a critical role in making me who I am today. I’m sure many people would accuse me of “wasting time” on the internet as I was researching and learning — both through reading and chatting with others interested in similar areas. I don’t regret a second of it and I would wish a similarly rich experience for my children.

    2. Just wanted to clarify that my above comment was supposed to be submitted in response to Lisa, but my comments aren’t posting in the right spot for some reason. Sorry!

    3. <>

      What about documentaries? Radio? Reading is NOT the only way to receive information. How about we value our children’s preferred method of receiving information? A child who prefers reading may gain much from reading online. A child whose brain isn’t wired to prefer reading as a means of gaining information may be wired to receive visual input more effectively and will learn better by watching than by reading. Is one child’s learning more valuable than the others? That just doesn’t even make sense.
      And do children gain tenacity by being controlled by their parents about what they can/can’t do and how often they can do it? I’m confused.

  97. While other forms of screen time are not, tv watching in most forms is a passive mental activity. Reading requires the brain to work and create.
    I’ve also noticed that when my children spend more then about 30 minutes watching TV (even educational tv) their behavior and attitudes suffer.
    (not totally related, but I’m surprised you would put super vaccine enforcer Gates in a category to emulate.)
    When we also talk about earthing and the balance that we need to get for health and rest, it takes a whole lot of counter exposure if you weren’t to limit screen time.

    I think we probably have different core beliefs in parenting (I highly value my 3 and 5 year olds opinions but that doesn’t mean they are going to make the decisions on their tv exposure.) I was very surprised as well, to see that you also use a classical approach to education in your homeschool. this is from the book The Core, by Leigh A. Bortins.
    “A classical education would embrace the efficiency of new technologies as they offer opportunities for individualized instruction, but would reject parallel monologue as a good form of education. Both factory and computer education rob a child of the the need to think and replace loving caring mentors with a machine or a system. The classical model emphasizes that learning feeds the soul and edifies the person rather than producing employees to work an assembly line. the goal of classical education is to instill wisdom and virtue in people. We see learning as a continued conversation that humankind has been engaged in for centuries and we are concerned that industrialization and technologies reduce contact and context between children and their elders.” (she is speaking more to computers as and end all in education, but i believe it still speaks to this situation)
    Time to specialize in an interest and turn it into an expertise is something that homeschooling affords us, thankfully. However I love when Leigh says this: ” I’m not suggesting we ignore our children’s gifts in offering them a broad education. Rather, i’m advocating that a classical education provides the scope needed to apply their strengths to a wide range of tasks….As a parent, i need to give my children an expansive vision of their opportunities. ” … which I think is difficult to do if they are calling the shots on what they do, when they do it, in regards to screen time.

    I really respect your comment guidelines of no personal attacks or insults etc.
    I do think it’s a little but counterproductive when the last line of your post implies that those who disagree with you and do limit their children’s screen time are dooming them to a life of dead end fast food jobs. A bit insulting and people will have a hard time not taking a defensive attitude.

    1. @Elise

      I do think it’s a little but counterproductive when the last line of your post implies that those who disagree with you and do limit their children’s screen time are dooming them to a life of dead end fast food jobs. A bit insulting and people will have a hard time not taking a defensive attitude.

      I didn’t say that unless we give unlimited screen time, kids are “doomed” to fast food jobs.

      Sorry if you feel that is insulting to you. Sometimes I write things that are controversial and, yes, it is meant to shake people up.

      I wrote that because this is what I feel: There are so many people out there complaining that they cannot get jobs. They complain about unemployment. And yet so many are behind the times when it comes to computers and technology.

      Ride the horse in the direction its going.

      1. @Elise

        While other forms of screen time are not, tv watching in most forms is a passive mental activity. Reading requires the brain to work and create.

        Please read this: https://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/24/magazine/24TV.html

        I’ve also noticed that when my children spend more then about 30 minutes watching TV (even educational tv) their behavior and attitudes suffer.

        I’ve not had that experience.

        (not totally related, but I’m surprised you would put super vaccine enforcer Gates in a category to emulate.)

        Gates’ position on vaccines is immaterial to this argument. The argument is that it takes 10,000 hours to become successful at something. I am saying that I think kids should be able to spend as much time as they want following their passion(s).

        When we also talk about earthing and the balance that we need to get for health and rest, it takes a whole lot of counter exposure if you weren’t to limit screen time.

        I’ve said this elsewhere but the majority of EMF exposure we get is in bed while sleeping.

        I think we probably have different core beliefs in parenting (I highly value my 3 and 5 year olds opinions but that doesn’t mean they are going to make the decisions on their tv exposure.)

        Yes it sounds like we do.

        I was very surprised as well, to see that you also use a classical approach to education in your homeschool. this is from the book The Core, by Leigh A. Bortins. “A classical education would embrace the efficiency of new technologies as they offer opportunities for individualized instruction, but would reject parallel monologue as a good form of education. Both factory and computer education rob a child of the the need to think and replace loving caring mentors with a machine or a system. The classical model emphasizes that learning feeds the soul and edifies the person rather than producing employees to work an assembly line. the goal of classical education is to instill wisdom and virtue in people.

        I don’t believe in “instilling” anything in anyone.

        The Latin root of the word education is “educare” which means “to draw out” or “bring forward”. It has nothing to do with “instilling” anything in anyone.

        My goal in educating my daughter is to provide a variety of experiences and opportunities for her so that her passions are ignited. Then to assist her in finding ways to explore the things she wants to learn. If she wants to learn to become the best guitar player in the world and wants to spend 10,000 hours learning, so be it.

        Same goes for any number of things from martial arts to computers to yes, watching TV. Believe it or not, there are academics who work in universities who do nothing but study TV and movies and write scholarly papers about it.

        We see learning as a continued conversation that humankind has been engaged in for centuries and we are concerned that industrialization and technologies reduce contact and context between children and their elders.” (she is speaking more to computers as and end all in education, but i believe it still speaks to this situation)

        Conversation has continued over centuries first orally, then through books and letters. Now it is being continued also on computers and on TV, in movies and on radio.

        I disagree that “technologies reduce contact and context between children and their elders.” Does she provide evidence for that?

        Time to specialize in an interest and turn it into an expertise is something that homeschooling affords us, thankfully. However I love when Leigh says this: ” I’m not suggesting we ignore our children’s gifts in offering them a broad education. Rather, i’m advocating that a classical education provides the scope needed to apply their strengths to a wide range of tasks….As a parent, i need to give my children an expansive vision of their opportunities. ” …

        Agreed!

        which I think is difficult to do if they are calling the shots on what they do, when they do it, in regards to screen time.

        Why?

        1. If your daughter wants to become the best guitar player in the world and wants to spend 10,000 hours learning to do it do you think it necessary for her to spend time learning her history timeline, scientific method, english grammar etc? I do.
          How do our children know what they are passionate about if they don’t have the introduction to many things because they are watching 10,000 hours of tv?
          that isn’t giving them an expansive vision of their opportunities or helping enable them to accomplish whatever they want in life.
          If my daughter only wants to play dress up I just wont teach her to read or use the toilet? It just doesn’t seem functional or healthy. Yes, she may grow up to be a fashion designer, fashion editor or actress, but she will likely have poor reading skills and hygiene issues.

          instill: bestow a quality on,2-have an emotional or cognitive impact upon, 3-fill, as with a certain quality
          Is there no belief, trait, habit or passion that you care to instill in your daughter?
          For instance, the importance of knowing what you are putting into your body and the way your body reacts to that substance is knowledge i want to instill into my children, whether they are particularly passionate about it or not.

      2. That is funny, people are not unemployed because they are “behind the times”. It is due to the economy. I am pretty certain if the “unemployed’s” parents let them have unlimited screen time as a child they would still be unemployed. Actually I’m pretty certain most of the long term unemployed would fall in that category. Ok, that’s a guess but only based on individuals I’ve seen. I think you might be grasping at straws now. 🙂 “A” for effort!

        1. “That is funny, people are not unemployed because they are “behind the times”. It is due to the economy.”

          Not to get off track, but I’m sorry, but I don’t buy this. All of the unemployed people I know are either 1) Completely unwilling to take any job that doesn’t meet a very strict set of parameters or 2) Completely unwilling to learn a new skill to move into a different field. I have heard so many people complain about the “economy”; meanwhile, they are just wishing and hoping for their dream job to drop into their lap, while they refuse to change anything about their skillset.

          1. I was saying the economy caused the unemployment and it definetley did. I’m from Michigan, it was bad. There are some people out there (myself included) who were laid off and in the position to wait for a perfect (or close to) opportunity. I have great past exp and skills, I was not going to change my career path that would not have been smart. I have three kids and had to make sure it was worth taking because of the nanny and etc. In my case I was lucky enough to be able to wait for the right opportunity. That is not to say I didn’t work my butt off to find my current job, which is my dream job!! 🙂 Needless to say everyone is in a different boat!

          2. I guess my husband just doesn’t fit your mold, J. He’s been looking for a job for 3 2/3 years now. He’s kept up-to-date with his field and worked several temp jobs/contract jobs in his field, but hasn’t been able to find a permanent job. He’s applied for all kinds of jobs, including manual labor. He was actually turned down for a janitorial job because he doesn’t have “3 or more years using floor waxer model AJ3007”–really??? He has a degree and was the head of a department more than once, and you think he can’t turn on a floor waxer?? Stupid HR people are one big reason for the number of people currently unemployed, if you ask me!

            He also underwent 2 months of training for a job, only to have the company fold.

            There have been something like anywhere from 200 to 400 people applying for any one job opening for the last 4 years now. Don’t fall into the self-satisfied lie of assuming the unemployed are all lazy bums who are no different than generational welfare recipients. My husband was head of his department when he was “downsized”. He was cut simply because he made the most money, no other reason. The same stupid VP also decided to let the *entire* HR staff go, so that almost immediately they got in trouble with our state’s Workforce division.

            Also consider that if you’ve been unable to find a job for several years, *you can’t afford* to go back to school to get a different degree. You may very well be homeless by then. Don’t think it couldn’t happen to you!

            1. @Tracey R

              He was actually turned down for a janitorial job because he doesn’t have “3 or more years using floor waxer model AJ3007″–really???

              That is so crazy and so frustrating!

              What field is your husband in?

              1. He’s a graphic designer/art director/web designer. It *is* crazy. I used to work in HR, and what’s happening is that not only is there a scarcity of jobs, most HR departments anymore use one of dozens of keyword programs to sort applicants, instead of using their brains. This is a particular problem for more unique jobs. What one person might describe as “whifnutting” another person might describe as “perchfangling”, and they’re both the same thing. But letting the program sort out one keyword means that only applicants who used that particular keyword will be considered, even if they did exactly what’s being looked for. And because there are lots of programs, and because some of the HR people might just not have a high degree of Googlefu, what’s being searched for might actually zero in on a tiny portion of applicants who, for whatever reason, chose to use that keyword on their resume. There’s no real way for the applicant to figure out the keywords, so it’s very much a crap shoot.

                1. @Tracey R

                  That is a really valid point about the keywords!

                  Keywords are crazy. We’ve been ramping up with Google AdSense as well as SEO and the whole keyword thing is nuts. You have to spend HOURS and HOURS drilling down on keywords to make your ad campaigns work and your website show up in search engines.

                  Does he have a good recruiter? I know a really good one — she is in Colorado and a friend of mine (actually I know a number of recruiters but this one is really good). If you email me his resume, I can forward it to her. annmarie@cheeseslave.com

            2. I never referred to anyone as “lazy.” Unwilling to adapt is a better descriptor for the kind of attitude I’ve seen among many of the unemployed individuals I know. I don’t have a “mold”; I can only speak from what I’ve witnessed. With so many free/inexpensive online resources available now, one doesn’t need to get a degree from an expensive school in order to learn a new technology or skill — just patience and perseverance. That actually gets to the heart of the whole conversation on this thread. Best of luck to you & your husband.

              1. It’s sad you know people that won’t adapt. I know a lot of people simply grow less flexible in all ways as they age, and the stress of being unemployed can make it more difficult as well. There’s also the factor that a person is much more likely to get a job that pays well enough to meet his/her obligations in a field s/he has experience in, instead of a field where it means starting all over again at the bottom. Even as a freelancer, my husband makes better money per hour (although not enough hours!) than he did when he was employed. As he told his dad recently “I would accept a job at the gas station if they’d hire me, but they pay minimum wage, and just one design job makes me what I’d make there in weeks.”

            3. I agree with you!
              My dad was just under the VP along with 4 other guys for their company, which built many of the the newer casinos in Vegas and hotels elsewhere around the country, making over 400k.
              They laid off more than 70% of the company
              He’s been unemployed for 4yrs. It seems like no one will hire him because he’s approaching 50, because he was one of the best at what he did.
              He’s looked for jobs having anything to do with his field regardless of pay.
              He’s had to resort to side jobs whenever he can find one with a buddy that worked for him.
              If by lazy you mean someone who would work 15-20hr days to get a project done on schedule, then ya…

        2. This just in from Forbes:

          According to the Economic Policy Institute, almost 30% of American workers are expected to hold low-wage jobs – defined as earnings at or below the poverty line to support a family of four – in 2020. This number will remain virtually unchanged from 2010. Given that roughly 50% of recent college grads are unemployed or underemployed and those who do work are much more likely to hold these types of jobs, this is a particular grim prospect for young workers hoping to leave these positions behind for greener career pastures.

          “Americans raised at the top and bottom of the income ladder are likely to remain there themselves as adults. Forty-three percent of those who start in the bottom are stuck there as adults, and 70 percent remain below the middle quintile. Only 4 percent of adults raised in the bottom make it all the way to the top, showing that the “rags-to-riches” story is more often found in Hollywood than in reality.”

          https://www.forbes.com/sites/jmaureenhenderson/2012/08/30/careers-are-dead-welcome-to-your-low-wage-temp-work-future/

          When I was in college, I had to make a decision about what my major was going to be. I was torn between English and Radio/TV/Film. I decided to go with Radio/TV/Film with a specialization in New Media (interactive/digital media) because I had a feeling that there would be more jobs.

          Instead of reading Beowulf, I watched The Simpsons and played video games and wrote papers about these things, and I designed interactive CD-Roms (this was before people were building websites). I also did an internship coding a CD-Rom for the Texas Film Institute.

          Now, keep in mind, I did also study Shakespeare — that was one of my favorite classes. I read a TON of plays in summer school. I also made an A+ in Astronomy.

          A month before I graduated, I drove to Silicon Valley and had 2 job offers within 1 week. I accepted one and was off to the races.

          I went back to Austin a couple weeks later for graduation and ran into many friends who were stunned that I had found a job so fast. They were looking at working at Starbucks. No joke. My job paid me 2-3 times what my fellow students were making, and 2 years and 2 jobs later, I was making six figures at an internet start-up.

          And PS: I never would have gotten into the ACTLab (Advanced Commnications Technology Lab) in college if I hadn’t spent thousands of hours playing around on computers as a teenager.

          I would not have even considered it or been drawn to it. Back then online/digital media was very fringe. And I definitely would not have had the knowledge to get into the program. Thankfully my parents did not set limits on screen time.

    2. “technologies reduce contact and context between children and their elders.”

      What’s amusing is that the exact same criticisms have been widely leveled at just about *every* technological development in history. Socrates said that writing would diminish humanity’s brain power/memory. The printing press was criticized for its potential to distribute controversial or “incorrect” information to the masses sans proper authority, proving ruinous to intellectual learning. The telephone was criticized because it would destroy letter-writing. The mechanized weaving loom would destroy fine textiles. And on and on and on; there are countless examples of Neo-Luddite claims that the newest form of technology will lead us all into a dark age. Though, I’m sure the sky is really falling this time, because it’s different now. It always is!

      1. @J

        I was so interested in your comment that it inspired me to do a little Googling…

        Writing:

        Plato (quoting Socrates) expressed the fear that the emerging technology of writing would destroy the rich oral literacy that was central to his culture. Writing would reduce the need for memory and attentive listening. It would give learners the appearance of wisdom by aiding rapid recall of information and facts without requiring internalization of such wisdom. This sort of “superficial” learner would inevitably be less literate. Source

        Printing press:

        As in the case of many inventions, there was immediate opposition. The new printing system was seen as something that would undermine the existing political and religious order. Source

        Telegraph:

        From the beginning, the telegraph worried some intellectuals, who fretted that the faster dissemination of information by cable would somehow dilute the quality of public discourse, to say nothing of their own influence. Henry David Thoreau, in Walden, set the tone. “We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas,” he wrote, “but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.” Source

        1. Printing press:

          As in the case of many inventions, there was immediate opposition. The new printing system was seen as something that would undermine the existing political and religious order. Source

          Interestingly enough, the printing press led pretty directly to the reformation, and a great deal of political and religious upheaval was the result. In fact, you could probably credit The Us as an independent nation to the writings that the printing press allowed to be easily disseminated.

        2. These are interesting examples because in many ways they were all proven true.

          While writing has not made us less literate (at least as far as I can tell) it has led to a reduction in the need for memory and attentive listening. There is no need to remember the details of a story that you can reread at any time.

          The printing press absolutely did undermine the current political and, especially, religious order. It has gone on to allow the undermining of many such orders. Personally, I don’t see this as a bad thing, but that does not make it untrue.

          The telegraph and by extension the telephone, television, internet, etc. has led to a place where we have ever more information at our fingertips. Can more available information ever be a bad thing? I would say yes. We are now in a situation where sorting through the information for truth or even just usefulness takes more and more time, which we have not gained more of. In a sense this goes back to the arguments against writing. With the internet there is no need to ever spend time learning anything. The information will be available to you whenever you need it. Why study something you can access at any time. But, this leads directly to a loss of common knowledge. If you only ever learn that which you specifically need in the moment, you will literally never know all that you are missing. The richness of human understanding will become lost.

          Would I prefer to go back to a time before all these technological advances. Absolutely not. Each of them has given us more than it has taken away, in my opinion. It is, however, important to recognize the loss and often to mitigate it to some extent. I believe that applies to current technology as well. I enjoy watching television and would hate to be without my computer.

          As a society that is above simply subsisting, we should embrace the opportunities we have to obtain a classical education; that which brings an understanding of mathematics, history, science, humanity. This is why the stories of libraries dropping their book collection in favor of digital media frighten me. The simple act of walking along a row of books and picking something you have never heard of is broadening. Choosing only information you know you already have an interest in will eventually create a net loss: in ourselves and our society.

          Limiting screen time for our children or ourselves is one way to mitigate that loss. Is there a place for television, movies, computer games, digital media of all types? Absolutely. I believe we should embrace it, but not as a replacement for what has come before. Rather, it should be a complement to what we already have: a way to bring all 7 of the books on your summer reading list with you on vacation, not a replacement for paper books in general; the ability to interact with people far away from you – both family and friends you do not wish to lose contact with and strangers who can share a common interest that you can learn from and with – but not an end to summer barbecues and afternoons at the park with those who are not far away.

          Of course, what that balance looks like will be different for every family, every individual, but the need for the balance is universal. Unless we truly do wish to move backwards, we can not simply abandon the technology of the past and we must approach each new technology with an understanding of both what we can gain from it and also what we can lose. The game we must play is to maximize our gains and minimize our losses, but pretending there are no losses is imprudent.

          1. I’m so grateful you submitted this comment- it was exactly what I was thinking and was articulated perfectly, IMO. And since I’m really feeling lazy, I was so relieved someone already said this so I didn’t feel the need to!

  98. There is a huge difference between the story you just shared and allowing your child to watch Spongebob all day. I can tell you firsthand that that DOES lead to lazy fat kids who have no goals or attention span. So yes, I will be limiting screen time with my baby. Not limiting learning and passion, but limiting pointless, useless shows. Watching TV and movies is not the same as reading by the way, reading requires you to use your imagination to visually create the world you’re reading about (even Danielle). Most TV doesn’t require the same mental effort.

    1. Having a daughter and 2 sons as well as 7 nieces and 5 nephews I can say that girls are inherently better than boys at self modulating their screen time probably because they aren’t nearly as visual as boys. That being said, excessive screen time as with excessive anything should be regulated accordingly. Would you just set a candy bowl out and let your child eat as much as she wanted? A TV sitting there with a ready remote is the same thing. It’s candy for the eyes. I think if you had a son and could see all the drooling, monosyllabic responding, sleep until noon, usually overweight, completely inactive computer/video game nerds I’ve come across who have no concept of social interaction (nor do they want to), you would quickly rethink your position.

      1. I read an article a few months back that Andy Murray, the tennis star from Great Britain, was dumped by his girlfriend because he was such a “loser” and played video games nonstop when not playing tennis and had no concept of interacting and being a normal partner in a relationship. You have to wonder if he had no boundaries with his screen time as a child. My bet would be that yes, it was a boundary-less home that did not teach that excessive behavior with anything is unhealthy.

        1. It could also be that he isn’t a very social person, didn’t find his girlfriend that interesting or was extremely worn out all the time from being a FREAKING TENNIS STAR! I don’t think we can make blanket assumptions that him playing video games all day came from no boundaries at home.

          1. Sarah is right here, Megan. This is a behavior of a person who had unlimited passive entreatment exposure as a child or/and teenager. When someone is not very social, they are just shy and have trouble keeping conversation. But his girlfriend left him for video games. This junk is so addictive and debilitating, you have to be blind to not notice it. I knew lots of people, usually boys, who loved playing video games all their free time. They were all losers. One boy I dated loved games, but he loved reading and other activities, so he was not totally consumed by them and I protested a lot when he tried to play it with me around. He did not have any problem limiting himself. He was very intelligent and fun young man unlike others I knew. Those losers would rather sit in front of screen and loose a relationship.

            1. I came across this thinking I would find something with Good Ideas for the kids. But, it just seems like a bunch of comments that are trying to one up each other or make the other person sound bad. I have 3 boy’s and they have equal amounts of time with everything from games to sports. They are very loving and kind to everyone around them and as their Mom I am Very Proud of how in these times that if nothing else I know that I am doing everything in my power to make them well-rounded boys who will be Great Men. I don’t think anyone has the right to speak about someone or something they have not been through themselves. My Family has personally been through hell and back we have had two homes burn down, had a hard times as far as jobs go and just trying to get through the week. My husband has always had a Job some good , some not so much but no matter what we have always made sure our boy’s had what they needed. In the end that is what matters to me, My Family. I think that if you home school, public, private or whatever you are doing as long as Your making sure 100% that your giving your Family the Best of You that it will always work out. For us it’s taken over 10 years but with all the ups and downs it has been worth all that we have together!!!!

  99. Television is not inherently bad. The computer is not inherently bad just as books, sports, jump ropes and talking on the phone are not inherently bad. I limit my daughter only in the way I try and limit myself. If I were to have my way, I would read, run, play my with my computer, snuggle up with my human and dog family and then go to sleep. As long as she gets done the things that need done, including active play, she can do whatever acceptable activity she wants with free time. Some days its lots of TV. Some days its Barbie dolls and legos.

  100. Dear Ann Marie,
    Firstly, I defend your right to do as you see fit for your child and family according to your individual view of the world and the path you have trodden that leads you to your opinions and beliefs, but I exert my right to respectfully disagree and to say that this article leaves me with a feeling of unease. I don’t see this as a black and white issue, nor do I see screens as necessarily ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – it’s a complex issue with multiple considerations and each must find their own truth within – but it’s the word ‘unlimited’ that I feel uncomfortable about. The fundamental reasons why I disagree with allowing unlimited screen time have already been well-articulated here in the comments and I would do little to restate them. However, to perhaps add a different perspective (I haven’t read all the comments) I wanted to mention that I am struck by what I interpret as the emphasis on the accumulation of vast amounts of money by a few individuals, mostly men, as the measure of the success of a person’s life, and thus used as a reason to not restrict screen time and influence, especially in younger children. There’s a tenuous link between allowing a child to engage in unlimited screen time and the risks this might feasibly pose to overall, life long health and well being, and the ridiculously improbable chance they may become the next Bill Gates, for example. (An unfortunate one as we hear of him using those coveted billions and celebrated, apparent success to promote Monsanto’s GMOs and mass vaccination. Forgive the flippant tone, but maybe all that screen time finally did addle his brain and judgement?) I draw no conclusions, but perhaps Steve Jobs’ eventually fatal illness was partially contributed to by the amounts of electromagnetic radiation exposure he might have been subjected to over his life time of unlimited screen time? Would he take back all his screen time ‘success’ and vast cultural influence in exchange for less screen time and more time in health with his family and loved ones? Maybe not, maybe so. I guess we’ll never know for sure what he would think about that (but I haven’t read his biography).
    Anyway, I’m just throwing ideas and opinions around. Please keep up the good work at shaking up energy, provoking productive discussion and encouraging us to think about why we feel the way we do and the choices we make. This has been a beneficial use of (limited) screen time indeed! I’m off to do some yoga.

    Peace and Namaste,
    Charlotte.

  101. I agree with Elise that your last comment could be insulting. There are many jobs that do not involve writing tv shows or designing computer games. A child with limited screen time will not have a 100% chance of ending up working at Taco Bell. What about nurses, lawyers, teachers, politicians, pastors, salesmen, doctors? And I don’t think a person needs to be able to quote Monty Python or The Simpsons to be socially accepted. Some people have interests beyond television and computers, and I think you need to respect that. This post came off as very harsh overall toward anyone who has any kind of reservations about tv or computer time.

  102. It sounded more like a snarky comment to get people riled up than a comment on staying up with the times. so, it’s likely that people will say what they feel in the same tone. I find a way different connection of tv time/video games & unemployment than you seem to have. sure there are 60 year old ppl who don’t have computer skills…. and there are tons of lazy 20’s who play games all day in their parents basement. Maybe the two work at Tbell together.

    Did you have any response to the meat of my comment?

  103. I have so many thoughts about this article, but I did want to address that comment about the Simpson’s and Monty Python. Depending on the kind of company you keep, you may find yourself in discussions with others about all kinds of things and I find that in my world…The Simpsons and Monty Python are never part of the conversation. In my world, it is the literary scene that I feel the most pressure to keep up with, but luckily…I enjoy keeping up with it. I did not go to the greatest of high schools and I don’t remember having reading lists as did many of my peers. When conversation has come up about traditional literary classics that I did not read in school as many of my peer group did…I feel very out of the loop. I have made a real point as an adult to catch myself up on those missed classics as well as newer meaningful literature. My kids do have very limited tv exposure and they are different from many of their peers, but we tend to seek out friendships with those who make sense to us….just as we all do. I can tell you that my son seems to have an imagination that knows no boundaries and I most definitely think it has to do with the limited screen time. I also think that kids that are allowed to develop these free unburdened imaginations are the very ones to be super creators as were Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Steve Jobs did not have the Internet or unlimited tv as a child. I am 39 and when I was growing up we didn’t have the option of being exposed to hours and hours of tv and computer because there were like 3 channels available and kid shows were on only briefly in the morning and after school and obviously….no one had a computer…no one had a cell phone. We had to make our own entertainment…as did Steve Jobs and the like. This is what makes for a creative and ingenious mind. Having computer skills is not some great feat. Anyone can take some courses and learn it pretty quickly (trust me…I had zero computer skills even coming out of college because computer labs were fairly new on campus and used primarily just for word processing and laptops did not exist. I have made my way though;). The real gift for children who are not bombarded by constant media is the ability to use their mind without bounds.

  104. I think you are missing here something important, and it is BALANCE. I can tell you from experience, my brother loves video games and computer programming (and he is good at it) BUT it is not ok when he would rather spend time in the computer than go out with friends, or have a family dinner or when he doesn’t clean his room, etc. And it is important to limit time, not just in TV and computer, in EVERYTHING. For example, If someone is 24/7 reading, and doesn’t do anything else it is NOT OK. If someone likes an activity and likes to spend a lot of time in it is ok, but if it is the only thing he does, if he can find pleasure in anything else, if it causes problems in other areas of his life, it is NOT OK.

  105. I used to limit screen time, when my first son was younger, because I had learned in early childhood education classes that screen time set sedentary neural pathways in the brain and didn’t constitute true learning – while I *do* agree that putting your baby in front of Baby Einstein dvd’s is not likely to teach babies how to read or how to speak spanish, and should not replace human interaction and multi-sensory learning opportunities (your baby will learn a lot more about “apple” by tasting/smelling/handling/seeing a real apple than seeing one up on a screen), I no longer limit my sons’ screen time or worry that they’re being over-exposed. Perfect illustration of why I no longer worry about it: My husband and my two sons (2.5 and 10 months) are currently seated in front of the tv (with dinosaur train playing on netflix) building a giant wall with duplo blocks. Yes, my 10-month old is building with duplo blocks, in spite of being exposed to 3+ hours a day (often much more) of screen time since he was about 2 months old. He’s also already walking, engages in conversational babble, and spends most of the day exploring the house and trying to play with his older brother’s toys. Clearly it hasn’t inhibited his development the way I was taught it would. My 2.5 yr old likes to browse you tube on my phone, and finds videos that “teach” colors and numbers and letters, and he’s actually learned from them on his own. I used to consider that “lesser” learning, than say, if he’d learned it by playing with paints (which he also does from time to time) – but I’ve totally gotten over that kind of silly thinking. Why is *his* way of learning colors (videos on you tube), and *my* way of learning colors (playing with paint and plants/flowers/craft materials) less valuable? He learned it! And *now* he’ll talk about colors in other situations as well (like on a walk looking at flowers and plants, or when we paint or draw).
    My personal preference is less tv. I can’t stand most shows, or tv advertising, but my sons love movies/shows, so we compromise by not having cable. We stream shows the boys might find interesting, and watch movies. We also get outside and play at the park when we’re inclined, and go for walks, go to play groups, etc.
    (But I was a sucker for Meerkat manor, which used to play on animal planet, before I had kids…)

  106. I also think that many people here are assuming that given the chance, a child *will* chose to spend 24/7 in front of the tv/comp/video games for the rest of their lives. If YOU understand that the world has so much more to offer, why do you assume your children don’t? And IF they don’t, that is certainly *not* their fault. Why would you penalize them by taking away what they do enjoy? It also sounds like people are worried about how the media controls people and their habits (I agree this is true for many americans). Do you think your children are not as smart as you? Do you think children don’t know when they are being manipulated? They may not understand it as clearly as you do yet, but maybe with the input of a loving, thoughtful adult, they will. Thoughtful children, like thoughtful adults, will probably see through the cheap manipulations we are exposed to through mainstream media, especially if they are also exposed to alternative viewpoints. And to the person who said reading requires people to use their brains to visualize – not all people do this. One of my best friends can’t visualize well as she reads – she loves reading, reads a ton, and then loves to watch the movie versions, because her powers of creating a rich, visual image in her head are limited. As a child she was allowed to watch a half hour of tv a night on school days, and an hour on non-school days, but she read constantly. So, limiting tv and reading lots did *not* improve her ability to visualize in her imagination. She also enjoys reading what most people consider “junk” and had a hard time with the more “thoughtful” literature I tried to get her into, because it was over her head. I was allowed limited tv time. I watched as much as I wanted, when I wanted, whatever I wanted – mostly disney movies, looney tones, and nickelodeon (as well as mel brooks movies and consequently, monty python. You’re really missing out if you’ve never watched monty python). I also did excellent in school, ran varsity cross country, then studied literature in college, and graduated with honors. So this idea that kids will suffer for watching too much tv is ludicrous. They suffer from being undervalued, undernurtured, and understimulated. They suffer from being over controlled.

    1. @Lisa C

      What a great comment!

      I agree, cultural literacy is really important. Helping our kids to form ideas about TV and movies and computers and to critically analyze them is essential, and yet it is not taught in schools (until you get to college, and often not at all unless you are a Radio/TV/Film or Communications major). High school kids analyze novels, plays and poems, but they don’t get to analyze TV shows and movies and video games. Why not?

      When my daughter gets old enough and if she shows interest, I look forward to Monty Python Marathons!

      PS: My daughter at this very moment is watching one of her favorite shows, “Ruby Gloom”. She just asked me, “Mom, what does ‘exist’ mean?”

  107. Most annoying among the many annoying things in this straw(man) house is

    1 – The sanctimonius leap (yep, prolly misspelled that word ; ) that limitting a screen means “honey, I don’t trust you, and you should feel bad about yourself, and I think your choices suck.” God heavens, get over yourselves. Please.

    2 – The oh so common hypocrisy of taking relativism to its logical conclusion, and with all the force of teh Ten Commandments saying inherently contradictory things like “Thou Shalt Not limit screen time — or set any limits whatsoever! — for children, because there are no inherint values, morals or principles.”

    How ’bout just a scrap from the table, just ONE comment from the holier-than-though limitless-b/c-I-love-and-value-my-kids’-individuality-more-than-you crowd that shows a LITTLE humility when others say, “this approach completely bombed for us.”

    Best,
    Annie

    1. Annie- why not just ask your kids what limiting screen time means to them? Don’t take anyone else’s word for it.

      And, I think any form of removing limitations when a parent is uncomfortable doing so is likely to fail in that family. I was uncomfortable removing certain restrictions from my son (bedtime is the one that pops into my head)- and often found myself snapping at him when he wanted more than I was willing to give – creating bad feelings in us both- that approach could have “bombed for us”. But I examined what I was uncomfortable with (“he’ll never go to sleep if I don’t make him go to bed and I’ll never get sleep and be exhausted and crabby all the time” is what I was telling myself) – well, I let go of my assumptions and gave us the opportunity to prove them wrong. Lo and behold, my son goes to bed when he wants, yet he’s happy, well rested, I’m as well rested as a mother of two including a nursing baby will ever be – and we’re all doing just fine. I chose that route because it’s what I wanted – I WANTED harmony with my child. I wanted to change. Not because I think I’m better than parents who have set bedtimes for their kids, but because that is the path to happiness for my family. You are not a better parent than me because you limit your child and I am not a better parent than you because I don’t.

      Basically, what I’m trying to say is, no scraps from my table, sorry. You’re not a dog (sorry dog lovers, dogs eat UNDER my table, not AT it). But you’re welcome to come help yourself to anything in my kitchen.

    2. Annie,

      I don’t do “holier than thou” but I will admit that while the no limits approach worked astoundingly well for my daughter, it didn’t produce the desired result with my son. Fortunately, I am flexible, and understand that he needs focus and goals from external sources, more than she does, and can help provide both.

      Yes – this approach can “bomb.” Fortunately – it’s a controlled demolition, and an engaged parent can course correct mid explosion. All the best!

  108. This really depends on the child. From personal experience “screen time” does need to be limited. If I let my 4.5 year old son sit in front of the computer (we don’t even have a TV) all day he probably would. In fact, his biggest excitement of our 12 hour international flights visiting relatives recently was that he could (and did) spend the entire time on his seat screen on the plan. SInce he was a baby, we had limited screen time for him, but due to moving and a lot of changes in schedule the past year he has spent more time in front of the computer watching shows/playing some games than usual. We have recently realized that he has become disinterested in doing things he used to like. He (and his mind) has basically become lazy. And like I said, this is from already limited screen time (the max would be a few hours on some days). Puzzles, legos, anything creative have all become “too hard” (his words) for him- things that he could do easily as a 3 year old. He doesn’t want to play/work on anything that requires critical thinking, although he is super smart. And this is just over the course of a year or so…and yes, it is from “screen time” because he’s constantly asking to “watch something” instead of any type of creative play (which we provide a plethora of opportunities here for him). We recently realized this and have had to cut out scren time completely- at least for now. We are starting Oak Meadow homeschool this year and one of their books describes it exactly. Essentially the “screen time” puts children in a different world- not the real world- and when they finish watching or playing whatever it is on the screen, the real world is not so interesting to them anymore. There is a disconnect on an emotional and physical level to the real world. That is exactly what has happened to our son. So while I personally think there is a lot of great, education programming and games out there and I think the internet is an amazing resource, you really, really have to be careful depending on the child. I never, ever imagined this sort of thing could happen to my son, but it has. And now we are basically having to pull him out of a rut, which is not easy at all. So while some children may be able to handle “unlimited” screen time and it possibly won’t affect them in any way (although i truly doubt that), it is very dangerous to allow unlimited screen time for, I would say, the vast majority of kids. It is a very complex topic and not black and white at all.

    1. I totally agree with you, Amber. This describes my older son perfectly. I have always thought I’d never “make a big deal” out of screen time, but unfortunately it has become a really big deal in our home. For my older son, TV is associated with terrible mood swings, tantrums, whining, apathy and disconnecting from the real world. Some people are able to glide in and out of these realities, but many children (a lot of boys, I notice) have a hard time with this. I don’t want to control my kids or make them feel like TV or computer time is “bad” and at the same time, I also am not willing to let some inanimate object control them. My younger son, on the other hand, could care less about TV. He does not turn into a zombie and whine or throw tantrums after watching. Coincidentally, he also does not have the same digestive and sensory issues either. I’m thinking there is a connection.

      1. Nicole, your older son sounds exactly like our son. What you’re describing is what we’re going through-especially the whining, apathy and disconnecting from the real world. At this point, we’ve had to completely “pull the plug”. Like I said, he is very smart, very social and you would have no reason to think that screen time would affect him so much. His personality is amazingly flexible (we’ve moved a lot, just recently internationally and we travel a lot, so he deals with a lot of different people, places etc and is as good as gold and quite a charmer in any new social situation and has no problem with breaks in routine which can happen). BUT when it comes to screen time it’s a different story. You are spot on when you say some kids can go from the “screen time” to other activities so smoothly. Our son can’t either…it is very difficult for him to make the transition once he is involved in a screen activity (and we’re talking watching Reading Rainbow on Youtube or playing a game on Nick Jr…nothing crazy). He doesn’t want to pull away once he is involved and then once we do pull him away (for a meal, some place we need to go, he’s been on for too long), his behavior is generally very bad and he will mope around and be completely disinterested in anything else. So for your older son, what do you do?

  109. While I don’t necessarily have an opinion on how much screen time a child should have, I do think there is a big problem in the types of programming and electronic “toys” that are out there today. I feel a lot of TV shows and gadgets are not age appropriate for some children, and parents let their child engage in them. It’s not the screen time that is the issue- its the monitoring of what is going on in screen ( and I don’t mean Spongebob- that show is so funny, kids love it, I mean that a lot of shows are said to be for a specific age group, yet that program shows images and/or topics that are not meant for that specified age group).
    On a related note, My cousin bought her two daughters ( ages 4 and 2 ) iPod Touches this past Christmas, saying they were ” more educational than any toys out there ” . Now, I know technology is moving fast, and more schools are incorporating the use of these gadgets in the curriculum , but if an iPod is more educational than a book or a puzzle, I feel like we are going in the wrong direction.
    PS -Waldorf schools are a little odd for me too!

  110. Here’s a little science to add to all of the opinions.

    ‘Brain Activity’ by Terrance A. Bastian

    Low Alpha Waves
    Low Alpha Waves: Causes: Radiant Light
    “While watching television, the brain appears to slow to a halt, registering low alpha wave readings on the EEG. This is caused by the radiant light produced by cathode ray technology [CRT, LCDs also?] within the television set [increases serotonin levels?]. Even if you’re reading text on a television screen the brain registers low levels of activity. Once again, regardless of the content being presented, television essentially turns off your nervous system.”
    Television: Opiate of the Masses

    “Psychophysiologist Thomas Mulholland found that after just 30 seconds of watching television the brain begins to produce alpha waves, which indicates torpid (almost comatose) [slow] rates of activity. Alpha brain waves are associated with unfocused, overly receptive states of consciousness. A high frequency alpha waves [sic] does not occur normally when the eyes are open. In fact, Mulholland’s research implies that watching television is neurologically analogous to staring at a blank wall.
    I should note that the goal of hypnotists is to induce slow brain wave states. Alpha waves are present during the ‘light hypnotic’ state used by hypno-therapists for suggestion therapy.”
    Television: Opiate of the Masses
    Telly Addicts

    “Radiant light, the light of [CRT] cathode ray technology [LCD fluorescent backlights also emit light], produces a dramatic downscaling of all brain activity associated with high energy, alert, healthy, disequilibrium [the term disequilibrium is used here to describe the flexibility of brainwave states?]. Television and VDT [video display terminal] viewing take from the brain the best features of its highest non-passive functioning.
    McLuhan Studies: Issue 3: Chaos and the Meaning of Electric Culture

    · “Acoustic work, like composition from memory,
    · Silent reading [should say ‘out loud’ instead of silent?], and
    · Mental arithmetic
    all require and induce the faster brain wave production.”
    McLuhan Studies: Issue 3: Chaos and the Meaning of Electric Culture

    “Literate activity,
    · Reading,
    · Writing and
    · Talking carefully,
    are activities that provide a sufficiently chaotic base to experience–that there is always the tendency for these activities to complexify [increase activity in the frontal lobes] further and speed up the brain.”
    McLuhan Studies: Issue 3: Chaos and the Meaning of Electric Culture

    “Activities such as
    · Reading a televised text,
    · Watching TV,
    · Watching a televised interview,
    are all noticeably downscale in the range of the slowest and least chaotic of brain wave activity (cf. Emery 627).”
    McLuhan Studies: Issue 3: Chaos and the Meaning of Electric Culture

    “The Emerys conclude, with impressive neuro-physiological evidence to back their claims concerning the function of Theta waves, that television is ‘a maladaptive technology,’ a technology that injures the health of the user. They set up a set of conditions showing the relationship between high Theta presence and low brain wave response in the situation of TV use…”
    McLuhan Studies: Issue 3: Chaos and the Meaning of Electric Culture

  111. This is definitely a hot topic among parents. When we first started our family, we said we would limit our children’s exposure to technology simply because it’s expensive. When our boys were just toddlers, we got rid of our tv. I think that was the best thing we’ve done for the kids. There was nothing educational on. And we noticed that our boys tended to get cranky once the tv was turned off after they had watched a show. Since we got rid of the tv, the attitudes are much easier to handle. We have a laptop that the boys can watch movies and play specific games on, but we do limit it. One movie a day and 15-30 minutes of educational games per day. Most days, though, we don’t play on it at all.

    Unlimited time with the tv or computer is good if your child is into that and can keep a healthy attitude. It’s good if you’re willing to shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars a year to keep up to date. It’s good if they plan on making a career out of it. BUT… you knew this was coming, didn’t you? But, if the child is merely watching tv or playing games to waste time being idle, I don’t see that as healthy. Let’s face it, only a small percentage of folks who play games are going to be programmers someday. Only a small percentage of kids who watch endless movies are going to grow up to direct them.

    I guess my opinion is that there’s no concrete way to address this. In rare cases, it’s good. For the rest, it’s not so good. I hope unlimited screen time earns you little geniuses.

  112. I don’t know how you were to twist all the moral values and ethics around and write a whole essay about the negative things whitch kids are not supposed to do and encouraging them.

  113. I personally restrict screen time. I’ve tried not doing it, and noticed my kids behavior rapidly deteriorate. They are 3 and 5. I’m keeping an open mind though and when they are a bit more mature, I can see maybe not restricting eventually. I wonder though, all those examples you mentioned, do you know for sure they had unlimited screen time in their youth? Unlimited screen time as an adult is not the same thing. But, on the whole, I think it’s just one more thing that may work for some families and not for others. For every study that says it’s bad, there’s probably another that says it’s good. We need to know ourselves and figure out what works. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the subject! It’s something I’ve personally wrestled with a lot.

  114. Well, I home schooled forever and am done now but, my son was called lackadaisical because he was not doing paperwork or busywork as I called it. He had a hard time learning to read but caught up and beyond before 4th grade. He then had some small motor skill problems and still does but I put him in a computer class and his typing speed went way beyond mine. He had chemo which caused alot of this but no one would know by talking to him or seeing him. He still has horrible handwriting but then he’s studying to be and MD(Osteopath) and that’s the way they write isn’t it? haha The computer has never hurt him but I do like it off at night because of the light and sleep disconnection.

  115. Go for it! You and your children will reap the consequences. I can’t take seriously anyone who actually holds up The Simpsons and Monty Python as anything but corruption. So, have at it!

  116. A great example to contradict everything you have just written is Dr. Benjamin Carson – recent speaker at the prayer breakfast – and his brother. When his mom pulled him away from the screen and into books, he became a top student and is now a world renowned brain surgeon. He and is brother thought they could not live without TV – they managed and thrived because of it. Look up Gifted Hands on youtube.

  117. What a relief to have someone else acknowledge how well this can work. I’ve always stayed silent on the topic, fearing my insistence on my children knowing and becoming themselves could be so easily twisted into some kind of off-the-deep-end hippie parenting or judgement of someone else’s choices (which, based on the comments so far, was perhaps a valid fear.) All of my children display intense creativity acting out things they’ve seen, and retain an amazing amount of information and skills from the types of shows they watch. The younger two have had incredible language based on observing the dialogue and vocabulary, particularly in interactive preschool shows. I always assumed I was a bad mom for not limiting their time, but I seem to have a whole house full of very polite, advanced, verbal, engaging, creative kids, who are active and social when not on their respective couches, so I guess so far it hasn’t destroyed us.

    We switched from live TV to Roku a few years ago because I do like to limit advertising, and paying less than 15% of what we were once paying for the same great shows (IN ORDER) is nice.

    It’s interesting, and sad, and frustrating… how so many parenting discussions get wrapped so quickly in insecurity and judgment. I wish people could just read something and move on if it didn’t strike them as relevant instead of needing to defend point by point why they don’t do exactly the same as the author, or elaborating on why the author’s choices for her family are misguided or likely to end badly or stupid, or – especially – leaving URL’s to websites that support an opposing point. It’s just TV. If my kid watches more than your kid, then to me, that means: my kid watches more than your kid. One of mine was severely PDD-NOS and now she’s 100% recovered, so maybe that makes me less worried about The Simpsons?

    Admittedly, I do hate Spongebob though. I don’t allow it because it’s just too annoying.

    1. Sorry, Amy. Read something and move on? It is the nature of blogs to invite comments. That’s why she wrote it. It’s why she has rules for commenting. It is also how we grow. Discussion. There are many things in life I was convinced to change – for the better – because I was willing to listen to differing opinions. Just like this blogger changed after not even considering “un-schooling” previously. Don’t complain about people commenting if they disagree. It doesn’t mean we don’t want differing opinions..

      1. I don’t have a problem with disagreeing or new/different opinions. I don’t like the superiority or “here’s why I’m right and your wrong” that seems to creep into parenting blogs so easily. The whole point of parenting MY kids is that we do what works best for OUR family, so I don’t get why parents feel like they need to tell someone else that other choices – for a family they don’t even know – are inherently wrong. That’s different than respecting or learning from diversity.

        1. Also, it’s both hilariously and tragically ironic that I expressed my dislike of people being told their subjective experience/opinions are wrong, and the comment I got was that my opinion/experience was wrong.

          1. Amy, you’re a little sensitive. There was nothing in my post to indicate that anything you said was wrong. Opinion and experience are what they are. I simply encouraged you to read a blog, respond, learn from it and move on. There is no need to complain about how others respond. I thought your post had some good points, but you didn’t need to add instructions as to how the rest of us should be responding. People are people. Let the moderator take care of commenting.

            We change and grow and I am sure this blogger knows that she changes and grows from what people post here – that’s why she does it. If no one ever disagreed or challenged another’s statements, we’d all be stagnant.

  118. I have a 19 year old daughter who rarely had screen time limited as she got older (only as a consequence of poor school performance or rare bad behavior). This child of mine is currently sitting on the couch, laptop on the arm, and game system going as well. She stays up all hours of the night to watch “livestream” with her “friends”, most of whom she has never met. For MANY years, she had a passion for anime. There is a huge market for it and while I worried she would be a “starving artist”, I never once got in her way of pursuing her passion for it. I encouraged her to pursue voice acting or art in this genre. She is also a great fiction writer, again I encouraged and supported. And have gotten NOWHERE. And my once engaging, outgoing, social, chatterbox is now afraid to give our names to the hostess at Applebees so we can get a table on a busy Friday night. Oh, I forgot to mention that the engaging, outgoing, social butterfly existed when I DID limit screen time. And let’s NOT mention the meltdown she had when there was no internet access for 48 hours that had her threatening suicide because she lost her “connection” to her “world” and all the “people that understood her”. I also believe that MANY people can spend thousands of hours pursuing their passion and NEVER become good at it. The Beatles are a phenomenon because they had a gift and used the gift wisely. How many hundreds of little girls spend thousands of hours at the gym, but never make it to the Olympics? The people you mention – they are anomalies – they are few and far between. One of the key ingredients to any child’s success is intrinsic motivation – one element my daughter NEVER possessed….passion – yes….motivation – no. And if you put a child with no motivation in front of a screen for unlimited amount of time – you will end up with a child living in your basement mooching off you for the rest of their life because they never learned to survive in the real world. If a child is motivated to become something great, they will, no matter what limits you do or don’t put on them. But when a child lacks it, a lack of boundaries/limits can push them into a life of laziness because they have no self control or motivation.

    1. I feel like this is a really good point- passion is a beautiful thing that as parents we all want to foster in our children. But passion without motivation and commitment wont get you very far in life. It’s hard for me to imagine how watching hours and hours of tv or playing video games will encourage that motivation or commitment.

  119. It’s our duty as parents to teach children what responsible screen time looks like. I don’t believe for a second that limiting (a.k.a. guiding) my children’s time in front of the tube, or gaming, or even researching valuable information on the net, will have a negative consequence on them. What will they learn? That they have a parent who cares about their choices. They will learn to be in the present with real people. They will learn to set personal limits instead of instantly gratifying their desire to watch, game, read, chat, text, etc. on whatever screen is competing with their friends, and family for their attention. Children should have enough responsibility in their lives that it would necessitate setting limits. Responsibility and limits help children to feel secure and of value in the world and will help them to succeed now and as adults. Unschooling doesn’t mean abandoning a child to their own devices. They still need guidance, no matter what direction they choose to go in, even if it’s programing computers. Can screen time be beneficial? Sure. I just hope that any parent who notices negative effects of media free-for-all will recognize that it’s a problem and do something to fix it. There are enough adults who are addicted to screen time that we should be wary of allowing kids to fall into that catagory in the hopes that they will somehow make something valuable of it. The pull of electronic devices on people of all ages is incredible. How many times have I seen a child or adult choose zoning out of life with a game or TV show over interacting with another human being? Too many times to be comfortable with your philosophy.

  120. I’m not a mother yet, but I do feel strongly about limiting my future children’s access to TV, movies, video games, and the internet.

    Thinking back to myself as a child, along with my siblings I watched hours and hours of TV as well played what seemed like endless Nintendo. I also read books voraciously and spent a lot of time out in nature. And it’s the books and nature that shaped me to be who I am. I can’t think of anything lasting that Nickelodeon or Super Mario inspired in me. In fact, around age 14 I realized that TV was more of a waste to me, and chose to avoid it entirely for the next year or so.

    I want my kids to excel at things they love, and while screen time may assist in that, I think it is only beneficial in smaller doses and while closely monitored.

  121. I will say that my parents turned off our TV when I was in 2nd grde, using it only for very occasional movies. It turned me into a reader. I wasn’t all that interested in reading for pleasure before that, but became a voracious reader of almost anything afterwards. My parents limiting/eliminating our TV had a hugely positive impact on my life, one I am grateful for decades later.

  122. Hello Anne Marie, I haven’t been here in a bit, I remember when you wrote this and I was keeping up with most of the comments for a bit. Love the differing opinions. Anyway, really just saying hello and hoping you’re enjoying unschooling, we are in our 2nd year and love it. I find that the more time I spend with my children the more time I want to spend with them. Loving it!
    Cheers!
    Tanya

  123. Here are my 2-cents-worth: You mentioned TV shows like Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch and I grew up watching these. At that time, TV during family viewing hours was “clean” ie, no porn – ever! – during family viewing hours. You can’t say the same about the internet. I have accidentally clicked on some websites that were horrifyingly shocking! Internet usage needs to monitored by adults, or young minds can be first shocked, then curious, then addicted to some very evil stuff.

  124. I don’t think another extreme is the answer either. What if some billionaire was limited in his computer time? Well how do you know he wasn’t? There’s a big difference between hobby and unhealthy. I would certainly peel my kid away from the guitar after a while. They need other things and can foster hobbies and brilliance while having a healthy life. There’s also a big difference between a child wanting to watch the history channel and a child who watches cartoons. I would limit cartoons more than the history channel but I would still limit the history channel. Kids do need sun and play time. Unstructured play in proven to be incredibly important for development. Also certain subjects are important to know whatever the hobby is and shouldn’t be forgotten because the child doesn’t like it. They do need to learn quality writing skills, reading skills, speech skills, math skills, and how the world works. I believe in fostering basics AND hobbies. I may tell one child to get off the tv because they’ve been watching cartoons for too long while another can have a little more time watching a show about science. I will teach my kids to understand the difference. Kids need to be taught, not let to just run free. Running free is important but so are other things they may not want to do. We give our kids chores they hate because they need to learn how to be a basic human being and take care of a home, cook, etc. So why don’t they need the basics of math, english, history or science WHILE excelling where they want?

  125. Your blog post is interesting and I plan to bring it up with my husband just to see what he says. Especially because he feels like technically has to be a part of our children’s childhood if they are to be successful in this day and age. On the other hand, I think moderation in all things is good, especially when it comes to television, and moderating what the children choose is even more important. I would not view my children watching the Simpsons as being a good life altering decision. It is known for its great script but it also contains a lot of trash I wouldn’t want my kids to watch. Just as I wouldn’t allow my child to read a book just because it made it on some bestseller list if it contained elements that I didn’t want them exposed to (in that capacity), like sex. I can see not banning television completely being a positive thing, but allowing endless hours of it still feels like a no go. Video game playing will probably fall under that too, at least with most games. As for the computer, if they were programming and working on skills, I could see allowing them to really really get into it, but if they are just playing some online fighting game or talking in chat rooms, again it would be a no go.

    While there are so many causes for the current economy, I have no doubt that there are some who are just too into their video games and computers to actually put in the honest effort finding a job. Just as there are those that are too addicted to video games to put in an honest effort to succeed at college. Yes some of these peoples’ futures will be improved by the skills they learned from the mass amount of time they spent on their “hobbies” but how many and what if their hadn’t gotten so lucky?

    Perhaps it’s all comes down to being a decision that each family needs to make based on the personalities of their children, and their specific interests.

  126. I haven’t read the other comments, yet, so I will only refer to the article. I can intellectually buy into your argument enough to at least consider it (my husband has made and keeps making the same one when he and our 3 1/2-year old daughter have been spending entire weekend afternoons in front of the TV), but emotionally I have to reject it right away. Have you ever spent the whole day in front of the TV? No matter whether you have been watching trash or intellectually stimulating things, you feel physically drained and emotionally unbalanced afterwards. Maybe that would happen with any activity when done continuously over the course of hours, but I don’t think so. I’d rather our daughter entertain herself instead of consuming something/anything. I let her watch TV because I think that she needs down time at some point during the day, and I cannot always read to her. I am not saying that children cannot watch TV at all – there are some truly cute shows out there; however, it shouldn’t be for long periods of time, in my opinion. I have to go with my gut on this one.

  127. As a therapist, I have witnessed this issue with multiple families and have seen one very compelling reason to limit screen time: kids can become addicted to it and don’t develop other interests or capacity for imaginative play and adequate self-engagement. I see the mom of a 9 year old boy who doesn’t enjoy going up to the snow to stay in a cabin anymore because he is away from his computer games. On a nice summer day, he has no idea what to do with himself if he isn’t on the computer and shows no interest in all the other types of activities available to him. And I have seen similar dynamics with other kids and find this to be very concerning. I think the key is about providing a balance of stimulation so kids can still be engaged with and interested in the “mundane” as well as media stimulation.

  128. Glad to see you hip to unschooling! That’s our trajectory with our 4yo DD. The stuff she learns about while watching TV, and the ideas and independent play and questions that those things spark, are too numerous to mention. TV and computers are wonderful tools. We don’t limit her screen time any more or less than we would limit the amount of books she reads in a day.

  129. We do not limit screen time, however we do not have much time for it either so our lifestyle kind of brings its own balance to the equation. I agree that TV is not “bad.” Things are not good or bad, they are things. People make good and bad decision.

    For example, TV does not make children obese. Parents, who do not feed their children healthy meals and lack the discipline to tell the child no, make kids obese.

  130. Hi
    I agree wholeheartedly with pretty much everything you say. The only reservation I have regarding TV (and perhaps others can tell me where the science is in this) is that they say that watching TV your brain works less than if you are asleep – but you don’t get the good things that sleep gives you. I have always had a problem with people saying that computer time is equivalent to TV time because you have to be thinking and doing when you are playing games – this is a much more active thing to do. And as someone who travelled often during school days, there were many times when my cohort discussed programs that had been on and I definitely felt ‘out of the loop’. TV (and computers and music) are all a necessary part of our social milieu now. I am one of those kids who was chubby because I didn’t get enough exercise – the culprit was reading. Too many people say ‘reading is good’ without qualifying that. As you said, there are good books and bad (or maybe ‘age inappropriate’ would be better) books – the same as with TV programs. I think I will go look up about this ‘unschooling’ business.

  131. What a refreshing opinion! From one nerd to another, thanks Cheeseslave!! 😉 My husband is a programmer. Some might say he spent too much time playing computer games growing up, but when he looks back on his childhood he remembers those times playing games as the highlights of his childhood. Playing computer games while his mom brought him PBJs was awesome and memorable, and an act of self-love. Not time wasted. I love gaming too, and when our daughter is old enough we’ll play as a family and not feel guilty about it!! Time well spent. 🙂

  132. I have one of those kids who *would* and *does* choose to spend most of his time on the computer. That is his thing. And I totally get it because that is my thing too. And I would choose to spend 16 hours a day on the computer if I could, creating websites. I would stop for food and to walk the dog and occasionally snuggle with my husband or go do something new.

    But the computer and the Internet is *where the magic happens* for me. I totally 100% understand my son’s desire to be there most of the time.

    That doesn’t mean he never talks or does other things. He does. In fact, he is quite the extrovert and would prefer if I sat next to him the whole time so he could talk to me and show me all the cool stuff he finds and does.

    But I want to focus on my own cool stuff … and I have a baby, so that’s not always possible.

    One thing I was surprised at though. Sandra Dodd is a wonderful writer and thinker, but a pretty horrible speaker, in my opinion. I’m surprised her talk had such an effect on you. I couldn’t sit through it.

  133. I’ve been mulling over doing a post that shares these exact sentiments. My kids learned to read from the screen. They have learned OH SO MANY THINGS from the screen. Moderation is good, but I think technology has been demonized unfairly. What I keep an eye on is CONTENT. We only watch high quality videos, with Disney and Avatar the last Airbender allowed on Saturdays. My kids are very academically advanced- not genius, but most certainly “gifted”, and I owe it to the quality programming I have been able to expose them too. They also play with legos, spend hours reading books, and have plenty of opportunity to read outside. I see technology as a good thing, and I will never apologize for helping them learn with the best tools available to me. My husband has a sweet job as a programmer, and he’s fit as a fiddle. I look forward to browsing through the comments over the next few days, but I wanted to say thank you for a wonderful article. I fully agree! 🙂

  134. I am sort of obsessed with this post! I love your perspective–it’s certainly given me something to think-over. We limit screen time (sort of) but our son is only 16 months old. I think your post is refreshing and interesting and will DEF look into that book by Dodd! Thanks for sharing!

  135. I do limit screen time, but only because given the choice, my kids (11 and 8) would spend all their time behind one. We tried unregulated screen time and it didn’t go well.
    They would get crabby, whine and complain when I asked them to pause or turn it off to help me, do a necessary task, or go somewhere.
    So, they earn screen time now. Much more smooth in our house!

  136. Oh where do you live, I’d love to get together 😉

    I just wrote about this here: https://www.togetherwalking.com/1/post/2013/06/eitheror-thinking-and-screen-time.html

    I’ve been reading about unschooling since my daughter was 18 months old (she’ll be 7 in a couple weeks) and we just completed our second “official” year of homeschooling. I LOVE unschooling! I’m going to share this and I’m looking forward to checking out your blog more!

  137. Interesting article. Are you concerned about the increased exposure to advertising during television and computer use? Seems like young minds could be very susceptible to convincing and sometimes misleading commercials. Thoughts?

    1. This concerns me too. We have a lot of media in my home, but not TV. We buy DVDs and software. We still have commercial time on YouTube, but I’m always there to discuss it with them. Their commercial time is very limited.

  138. My two concerns about screen time are these: The EMFs, which aren’t as much of a problem if children are running outside barefoot too, to get the radiation out of their systems. When I spend too much time on the computer, my arms and hands are achy the next day. When I have a laptop on my legs for any length of time, I get restless legs and can’t sleep that night.

    The second is that we live in a world where we have disconnected so fully from nature that we are destroying this world. I think the answer to this is to reconnect to nature. Having children be outside for large portions of the day, playing in streams, in the woods, building forts and working along side their parents helps adjust their brains to nature. All the green is soothing to the brain, barefoot on the ground helps our body’s electrical systems. For the first six years of a child’s life, they are like sponges, its critical for them to be in the natural environment during those years in order to not produce another consumer on this planet. I don’t really care if the jobs are all in computers, I wouldn’t mind if we didn’t have computers in 20 years. We have to get out of this connection to technology and connect with the world, or we will continue to destroy it.

  139. Thank you for this post. It’s something I struggle with daily as a parent of a five year old who LOVES his time on the computer. He spends his time on pbskids.com playing Wild Kratts and now he knows a crazy amount of information about every kind of creature. Our family took a trip to the zoo a couple weeks ago and we learned so much about all the animals from him. He was our own personal zoo guide and it’s all from watching Wild Kratts on tv and (mostly from) playing Wild Kratts games online. I also don’t think it’s such a bad thing and need to get over the guilt I feel about it. Thank you again. I needed to read this. xo

  140. I have an almost 2 year old who asks to play “games” or “gees” as she calls them on my iPad or iPhone. Her game are learning oriented toward colors, numbers, alphabet, shapes, animals, and memory games. The only time I deny them to her is when it’s time to relax and go to bed or when we are out and about and I cannot readily give her access. Someone asked me why I do that, I told them it was no different than using flash cards. My daughter was also matching up to 8 cards in her matching game when she was 15 months old!

    It is also not something that reduces or interferes with playing outside or with other toys that have other developmental properties. A true learning experience comes from everything in your environment. For me, as long as she is learning and developing appropriately, she can use these games.

    I also have a movie or age appropriate tv show on most of the day. She watches when it interests her and doesn’t it when doesn’t. TV has very little direct correlation with anything other than show/movie ratings and power usage. Indirectly, TV is no worse for you than anything else. Time watching TV and obesity are correlated, but so is the economy and the length of women’s skirts in the workforce. Just because the trends are similar does not mean it is a causal link.

  141. Limiting here … for the young child … images that they see are much worse than images they would come up with on their own while hearing a story. I tend to agree with Kim John Payne (simplicity parenting) and the Waldorf scholars that I have come across … screen time is not for children

  142. Don’t like to be so blunt, but my kids turn into little monsters with unlimited screen time. I notice a huge difference in everything about them when they spend more than an hour passively fed images, thoughts, and ideas. On the other hand, they are incredibly creative, more tolerant toward each other, and just overall amiable when they play, run, read, create, draw, build forts, etc. I think educational games have their place and a little bit of passive screen time, but I would never just let them have free reign or they wouldn’t eat, go outside, or read. EVER. lol

  143. ” Is The Simpsons less intellectually stimulating than reading short stories by Oscar Wilde?”

    Is this a real question? I wonder if you have done either. If you have, I feel even more pity for you. Jump off your self-righteous, pseudo-intellectual high horse and make a real argument. Sheesh!

    1. @Bill

      Please don’t be rude. Just because you don’t agree, does not mean I’m wrong.

      I delete comments from people who are hateful and engage in name-calling.

      Yes, I’ve read all of Oscar Wilde’s plays.

      I don’t think I’ve watched the entire Simpsons canon, however. Need to get on that.

  144. I AGREE!!! 100% THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for writing this! I learned when I was bedridden ill while pregnant with my 2nd child, that video games and television would not ruin my 1st child. After 5 weeks the novelty wore off and he played as normal. He never just “sat” in front of the tv. He would incorporate toys and play while in front of it. We still spent HOURS outside a day (he wanted to go out) and spent a lot of time reading. While homeschooling, Wii helped him learn his letters. The computer has been an invaluable tool in him learning about everything from multiplication (effortlessly) to science videos, etc. My children are COMPLIMENTED

  145. i just dont think that ignoring your entire family and playing xbox 16 hours a day every single day is a good thing. my stepson no longer knows how to interact with people and is the mouthiest 10 year old ive ever met.

  146. There is nothing like reading. As much as I love and support great tv, movies and plays, when one reads the imagination is stimulated in a way that it is not when the images and visuals are given to you. I work as an actor and an acting coach and have seen time and time again how the artists that read a lot have incredibly rich and full imaginations and can play more. Many kids I coach these days have lazy imaginations and a very difficult time “seeing” things in their minds eye and I believe there is a correlation between lack of reading and weak imaginations. Don’t get me wrong, I think watching stuff is great. And it isn’t an argument about artistic achievement at all. It’s about what the brain does differently when reading. I don’t need a study to show it to me because I have seen it firsthand.

    Plus, a side note, I am still concerned about EMFs and radiation and my instinct is to limit exposure. Not ban, not go crazy, but to be aware. https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/03/05/avoiding-emf-exposure-on-laptops.aspx

  147. Hi Ann Marie,

    This is something we have been discussing a while in our house. We have a 7yo boy, a 5yo girl and a 2yo girl. The girls will take their TV time but then do other things. The boy, wow. He has watched 8 hours straight on the weekends when we give him unrestricted time. The thing is, he’s a mess afterward: he has meltdowns, is restless, and acts like I’d imagine an overstimulated young child would.

    But there is a Matt Stone principle that keeps popping into my head: the idea that certain kids will hoard or be greedy with things (like TV time, or special foods and “treats”) if there is any restriction at all. There’s an idea that addiction is related to guilt associations and restrictions (my guess is that it’s especially true with certain personalities or backgrounds). And I wonder if this is what’s going on with our son.

    https://180degreehealth.com/2012/07/1811-eastlake-revolutionary-addiction-treatment

    Anyway, this theory (and my gut instinct) have us teetering on completely removing restrictions on screen time and letting him binge the hell out of TV with a hope that he’ll either find something else to do eventually or that he’ll flourish in the freedom of getting to do what he enjoys.

    What does unrestricted look like, btw? I.e., you can watch tv anytime you want, unless I need you to do something? Do you restrict types of shows? How closely do you monitor the sites they go to on the comp or ipod? And how do you do that?

    Very interesting to think about!

  148. ( Too many comments to read. Sorry if this is repetition, but wanted to comment to clarify my own thoughts)

    I agree with you Ann-Marie 100%. If you’re primary aim is to create a child that can relate to the world around them and to achieve greatness in a worldly form, then to limit their desires -in anyway- is counter productive.

    However, our personal aspirations for our son are primarily to have a relationship with the Lord, and secondly to cultivate good character and a good attitude. We feel this supersedes fame and fortunes, career or personal desire. So therefore, we would be very happy if he achieves our primary goal, to the detriment of popularity, fame and fortune.

    You have, however, made me feel much more comfortable with a more casual approach to his screen time. Which was your aim, right? So good job, well done 🙂

  149. In my opinion, you are the only one that knows what’s right for your family. Thankfully we are all made to be unique and special in our own way so that it would make sense that one strategy wouldn’t be a good fit for all families. That’s what makes our world so diverse and all of us compliment each so well. That being said, my husband and I subscribe to the “moderation in everything” rule for our family. That goes for all of us not just the children. And always the “”people before things” rule. We make a definite distinction between necessities and luxuries that we describe as those things that are “not required for living”. These are the things that are nice to have but we could go through life successfully without. We view them as extras, treats, and privileges. While there is nothing inherently wrong with them, they fall into a category that is not equal to the necessities. We do limit TV, computer, wii and movie time but also reading and outdoor play if it is to the exclusion of other quality activities. The limits are more general in terms of not allowing one child to spend days on the sofa without spending some time doing something active and outside in the sunshine. The same goes for the child that is prone to be outside and active most often. They are encouraged to branch out and read a book or get involved in an art, sewing or kitchen project. That’s not to say that they don’t get interested in doing things like plays or making movies and spend lots of time making costumes, gathering props, practicing lines and shooting the movie or performing. Projects like that involve organization, cooperation, perseverance, creativity and some technical skills. These are the qualities that really make a person a good employee and citizen, not only on paper but in the workplace on a day to day basis. My husband and I are attempting to raise our children to be well rounded, self-disciplined and motivated lifelong learners. This is only part of the strategy that we have chosen to accomplish this. Beside the limits (discipline) we apply in an effort to teach them to regulate these things on their own eventually, our home is filled with love, acceptance and lots of time to listen to and spend with each of our children individually and all of them together as well. We are constantly complimented by others on our children’s manners, self direction, willingness to help,positive attitude and ability to get along with young and old alike. While I don’t base my success generally on the views of others, I do think that we are at least on the right track with our particular children given the goals we have in raising them.

  150. I agree with the points that you made but I am concerned about things like too EMF exposure and the fact that you are in front of a screen usually means you are not outside playing in the dirt, earthing, etc like kids are meant to do. From a health standpoint I feel like these things are important.

  151. I heard this broadcast today and I think it makes some good points about too much screen time. https://www.focusonthefamily.com/popups/media_player.aspx?MediaId={91453324-B6F3-4E2D-B4DF-2F5663041705}
    One being that yes it makes your brain smarter in some areas but causes your brain to become weak in others. Its like only exercising one muscle and neglecting the other. If I didn’t limit screen time at my house it would be on ALL THE TIME. I know I feel better and my kids are happier when we have less screen time. I think you shouldn’t just take these gamers/programmers word for it because its their job to make money off of you so of course they are going to find research that supports their business. Also certain kids can get really hooked on these games and things and loose interest in the “real world”. I would like to see some better research on this subject than is presented here.

  152. I read this article because it was one of the first few alternative viewpoints on the subject of limiting kid’s screen time. I was hoping for some reasons to not worry so much about my kids wanting to constantly play video games so I read it with an open mind and hopeful expectations.
    I like what you have to say but unfortunately without siting science or scientific studies then it’s really just a philosophical exercise.
    Citing extreme examples or unique examples like Bill Gates and Mark Twain isn’t really helpful. Noting that a multi-billionaire really isn’t evidence of anything. Citing one data point isn’t how science works for the most part. You should be citing the average.
    Also, speaking of Bill Gates as well as Mark Zukkerberg, they didn’t become wealthy and (I assume successful) individuals they are by watching Spongebob and playing Mariocarts for hours every day. Writing computer code and computer software engineering is really a totally different exercise. It’s more along the lines of an artistic hobby perhaps. Maybe Mark Zukkerberg’s parents did discourage him from playing video games and that’s why he focused more time learning BASIC. I really haven’t read his biography so I don’t know though. I won’t even go into the modern problems of most people being “locked out” of access to their apple devices at a basic level in order to create software. So much for Steve Jobs being a good example too I suppose.
    The point is, the examples you cited are single data points AND they are not good examples of kids exposed to too much commercial advertizing or video games that someone else wrote the software for.
    Also, while TV has been around for a long long time, this media saturation problem for kids has really only achieved it’s peak in the last … lets say the last decade or two because of the availability and sophistication of console video games as well as portable video game devices not to mention the ubiquitous smart phone. In fact the smart phone has sort of been the one device that has allowed virtually every child access to video games or screen time 24-7. So these things being a relatively new phenomenon, we are really just beginning to see the results of research and studies. But there are results from such studies and as a reasoning, rational person we need to either follow the mounting evidence and lean towards that belief OR reserve judgement until more evidence is in; however, there does seem to be at least enough evidence to err on the side of caution… while still allowing time for learning to write software of course.
    Just my opinion at least.

    -W

  153. I have to say that I think about this post a lot. What courage it took to write it! So, here I am coming back to it all this time later to say, I agree with you completely. We don’t limit screen time for our child. Kids will learn what they need to learn in the society they are in. And, screen time, computers, TV culture–this is all part of being literate in our culture. The most recent book I have read that talks about this is Peter Gray’s Free to Learn (which I don’t get paid to promote, but keep telling unschoolers about because it’s just a great affirmative read for all of us stepping outside of conventional schooling with our kids!!). Gray says that limiting screen time actually doesn’t lead to more active kids and that it’s only natural for kids to want screen time because it is an import an part of being educated in our culture. Also, I know for a fact that when you let your kid truly self manage with screen time they do (especially at first) absorb a lot of shows, some educational, some mind numbingly stupid and watch like couch potatoes. But guess what? After a time, they get over it. Like we all do. They self regulate. My almost five year old daughter gets bored with the boring shows, finds stuff like Sponge Bob ridiculous and immature, and likes more complex plots and characters. She self manages to age appropriate stuff, if by that you mean things that challenge her mind and sense of play. And she’s still active and playful in all the right ways for a kid her age.

  154. From American Academy of Pediatrics: https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/pages/media-and-children.aspx
    …”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.

    By limiting screen time and offering educational media and non-electronic formats such as books, newspapers and board games, and watching television with their children, parents can help guide their children’s media experience. Putting questionable content into context and teaching kids about advertising contributes to their media literacy.

    The AAP recommends that parents establish “screen-free” zones at home by making sure there are no televisions, computers or video games in children’s bedrooms, and by turning off the TV during dinner. Children and teens should engage with entertainment media for no more than one or two hours per day, and that should be high-quality content. It is important for kids to spend time on outdoor play, reading, hobbies, and using their imaginations in free play.”…

  155. Marnita, I am glad things turned out so well for you and your son. My experience (if we base everything on personal experiences,) is that I am seeing a lot of guys raised on gaming and media who are now basically 30-something adolescents, many still living in Mom and Dad’s basement. Check out Phillip Zimbardo’s TED talk on the demise of guys. https://www.ted.com/talks/zimchallenge.html. Also, if you are interested in reading things from another perspective, you might check out the book Last Child in the Woods. But if you are only interested in your own experiences, then you probably won’t be very interested in reading something from another perspective. If you had studies showing the opposite–that adults who grew up as children using large amounts of media regularly are more likely to have good social skills, be healthy psychologically, active physically, and sucessful in their chosen career than those who use less media, I would certainly love to see those studies.

  156. I believe moderation is the key to everything.As a concrete example, I’ve introduced real physical books,flashcards,enrichment activities like Kindermusik to my 2 1/2 year old girl before I let her play on my Kindle (there is a “safe” area called Free Time)-and even there,it’s all e-books,interactive stories and yes, Dr. Panda games.I’ve limited her games time to 40 minutes but unlimited for books (read to me kind).I don’t feel bad about letting her do her thing as she is showing signs she deserves play time of the electronic kind as long as she runs and play outside as well.She is far more advanced than her peers (kids of my friends) who are older by at least a year.She can already name at least 20 flags of countries thanks to e-books! It’s the same guilt trip we as parents are forced into-like what kind of food they eat.I admit I wouldn’t let my kids eat sweets and chips 24/7 but for as long as my girl eats veggies and fruits, there’s no harm in giving chocolates or chips!Enough of the guilt trip,parenting is already hard as it is.

  157. While I believe that screens can definitely be useful for educational purposes, I have a number of reasons why the idea of not limiting screen time will do more harm than good for a child.

    I am a medical student and one of the few who tries to limit my screen time as much as possible. Furthermore, I am very interested in psychiatry, so this post will be oriented around mental health.

    1. There is a correlation between depression and hours of watching TV. While correlation does not mean causation, I believe this one can work both ways. Watching TV may make you more depressed and if you are depressed you will watch more TV.

    Lets start with the first statement: Watching TV adds to depression.

    A. -Exercise has been linked to helping with all sorts of mental disorders including ADHD and depression. Some studies have shown that exercise works as well as prozac in treating depression. When you exercise your brain create a growth factor that increases neuron growth (simplified yes but you can look it up). There are tons of books on this and the one I recommend I cannot remember the name right now.7
    – Exercise is good for cardiovascular health, increasing bone density, and basically everything else..
    I argue that if you increase screen time you will find a kid exercising less.

    B. Screens are overstimulating. Have you read those articles on the people who became depressed after watching Avatar? Basically the world they saw was so fantastic that everyday life seemed