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Worth the Fight: The Science Behind the Dangers of Screen Time
Don't Miss This Discussion
A quick late night note to recommend Allie Beth Stuckey’s recent podcast episode on the danger of screen time, featuring Austin’s own Dr. Nicholas Kardaras (the link goes to part 2 of their conversation, which is not an error, part 1 is a different topic).
For those with very young children or hoping to start a family, the takeaway is straightforward: do everything you can to raise your kids in a screen-free environment. As both Allie Beth and Dr. Kardaras put it, it really is not that hard – in the Before Times, everyone did it! Kids raised without screens are kids who don’t need screens. They will find other ways to entertain themselves – and retain their attention spans and their souls in the process.
For those with older kids and teens who are already screen addicted, it’s not going to be easy, but do give the discussion a listen – it is worth the fight.
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There are many important points raised, on topics ranging from attention span to hard core pornography to loneliness, but a couple in particular I wanted to briefly highlight:
- It’s not enough to ban phones, though of course that’s essential. You have to proactively foster alternatives – community, identity, friendships, participation in real life. This is what I was getting at here: teens are searching for meaningful roles and identities in life, and if you don’t give them the opportunities/outlets/foundation to inhabit those identities in the real world, they will pursue far, far more dangerous ones online.
- Related: do not view my ‘extremism’ on this topic as a green light for helicopter parenting in general. As I argued last summer at The Federalist, a happy, worthwhile childhood needs to be in large part an unsupervised childhood. In the podcast, Dr. Kardaras calls it ‘benign neglect.’ To be very clear: that neglect, that unsupervision, does not apply to screens – which, unlike forests and lakes and bare feet, have never been a traditional part of childhood and will destroy your child’s mind and soul.
I wrote about all this at great length in this pre-pandemic speech, but for those who don’t have an hour to kill, you can skip to the bottom for the eight key tips and helpful resources. Do give the podcast a listen if the topic interests you, and if you won’t take their or my word for it, I point you to the indispensable Joy Pullmann: Parents Should Never Let Children Have Unsupervised Internet Access, Period — And That Means No Cell Phone.
I know it seems a daunting proposition and a lot of work, but when you are able to take your kids to dinner at a restaurant and have a conversation with them while the kids at the next table are glued to their tablets, or when your kids are able to color and read and entertain themselves on a flight while the kids in the next row over are staring slack-jawed at cartoons, you will realize that the fight is more than worth it.