No More Than Two Hours

A while ago I had done some writing and research on technology: specifically the new stuff that was coming onto the scene at the time like large Massive Muliplayer Online Games. My interest with technology, however, has always hinged on how all of this digital stuff was going to effect us is ways other than increasing our productivity.

I try to keep my eyes and ears open to new writings, studies and findings. One book I’ve been reading recently, Failure to Connect by Jane M. Healy, was actually written back in 1999, but the basics of it are as poignant today as they were twelve years ago. The author basically says that just because a digital technology is revolutionary doesn’t mean it is going to be any better at helping us teach children educationally. In many cases, actually, over use of digital tools and games leads to unintended consequences of uncoordinated children with limited attention spans.

One teacher quoted in the book laments that children are hardwired to want to learn. We do not need to throw digital distractions at them to facilitate a child’s yearn to learn.

So I found it interesting a recent announcement from Nintendo warning parents not to let children younger than six or seven use the new Nintendo 3d graphics feature: this innovation actually has the potential to damage a child’s developing visual perception abilities.

Wow. A manufacturer giving this warning? It must be bad.

This little note about not having very young children watch a 3D image, when you really slow down, stop and think about it, seems as silly as telling parents not to have a toddler run around the house with a paring knife. Yes, that’s an event that actually happened in our house many years ago.

But Failure to Connect raised another point about computer use: it’s hard enough on the eyes of adults to sit in front of a computer screen for hours on end, why do we think that it’s OK for kids? OSHA now has standards for screen use, though no one ever follows them. How do we not stop and think that the strain on the still developing eyes of our children must be incredible? What is going to be the rate of increased myopia, astigmatisms, or other conditions in this new generation of digital citizens?

After reading Failure to Connect I am absolutely adhering to the American Academy of Pediatrics recently publicized guidelines (guidelines proposed over 15 years ago) that children under two should not have any screen time, and older children should have no more than two hours of screen time a day – that’s a combination of video games, computer and TV time – and not just for the eyesight issues. I fear the damage I’ve already allowed through too much screen time, but it’s no reason not to try to limit the damage, and regain a little control over the digital lives of my children.