For Science: Why ‘screentime’ is a useless measure of media consumption

    
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A few weeks ago, my eyes skimmed over a discussion some of our commenters were having about video game science – I can’t even remember whether it was about violence or addiction since we cover both issues – but one thing that stood out for me was that everyone seemed to be assuming that “screentime” was settled science. “Screentime,” people clearly still believe, is 1) an actual monolithic thing and 2) obviously bad in high doses. Obviously!

It startled me because in recent years I’ve seen plenty of pushback against the “screentime” idea; for example, just a couple of years ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics admitted that lumping all screentime together was nonsensical and changed its guidelines to focus on reducing junk apps and programs, which really isn’t all that different from how my own parents treated TV and consoles back when I was a kid.

Ars Technica has a great article out this week summing up modern research on and the meta of the screentime issue, and it too is skeptical of the idea of shoving the millions of things we do on screens – communicate with friends and family, do homework, conduct research, go shopping, check the news, and yes, watch video and play games – into one “forbidden” box.

“We don’t talk about food time,” Oxford Internet Institute psychologist Andrew Przybylski tells the publication. “We don’t talk about paper time. But we do talk about screen time.” That, he argues, has been a mistake that leads to badly constructed experiments and panicky headlines, never mind how silly it is to act as if playing math games and chatting with grandma is the equivalent of watching Ninjago just because they all happen on a screen.

In case you’re about to say, “Ninjago isn’t making kids violent!” – you’re right. It’s just a dumb show with poor lessons. The article does dip into the lack of evidence for a causal relationship between aggression and gaming as well, though; you can read the whole piece on Ars.

Source: Ars Technica. Thanks, Serrenity!
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rafael12104

Somebody very close to me is raising her kids with the firm belief that the problem is screen addiction. Almost anything electronic these days has a screen and people especially children get hooked on screens.

So, you go from the screen on your phone to the screen on your computer, to the TV and on and on. This, if you subscribe to it, slows down mental acuity and development. It retards social skill. And it promotes horrible behavior.

And this school of thought is being promoted by particular private schools where parents are, let’s just say indoctrinated, into believing that screens are the true evil among us.

It is ingrained in the curriculum so that even in high school these students can’t use a computer. Parents have to sign an agreement that the students at home will not be subject to screens. Seriously. I’m not kidding.

I could go on, but I think that cuts to the chase. It isn’t just screentime, it is screens altogether. One giant lump of screen corruption.

I get so frustrated because that is just fear and hysteria. Anything even books can be abused. It is the content therein that makes the difference. And because of this nonsense, these students are heading to college one step behind. No programming skills or the simple knowhow on how to type a paper using a word processor.

Moderation, moderation, moderation! Sheez. It’s not factional warfare!

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Bryan Correll

Pfft. Food time can easily be combined with screen time to double your productivity.

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Paragon Lost

Yep, read the Ars Technica article when it came out and reached the same conclusions that they did.

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TomTurtle

I feel a bit uneasy reading about things like those tests being done on mice.

The conflict of parents and dealing with children’s allotted play time with technology and such is probably heightened due to how rewarding those forms of entertainment and escape feel. We’ve gotten better at designing how good our choices for free time feel and the contrast to everything else only becomes more noticeable. That just makes me hope we can continue to find ways to improve the “everything else”.

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Armsbend

I only have anecdotal evidence with my own kids and adults. If I let them look at a phone or tv screen for more than an hour their moods are horrific, they become overly emotional (about it being taken away) or any number of negative reactions. Never positive reactions. Everything learned on tv/games can be done better practically anywhere else.

I think most parents would agree. Same goes for all but the most anxious adults.

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camren_rooke

Same. I have only heard anecdotal evidence from friends that their kids act out more misbehave after too much TV.

Anecdotes aren’t data though so I’d be interested in seeing more research.

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Pandalulz

The problem we’re having lately is that I don’t mind if she plays games or does something that engages her, but all she wants to do is mindlessly watch Netflix when she’s on her tablet, and that’s where the issue comes up.