The Art of Screen Time

Anya Kamenetz is the lead digital education correspondent for NPR and the author of three books on education and technology.

R egardless of how you feel about screen time, The Art of Screen Time: How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media & Real Life by Anya Kamenetz will convince you that the effects screen time has on kids has more to do with parenting skills than technology.

It’s almost impossible to raise a kid without screen time, not least because of video calls to grandparents. The trick is to set a good example for your kid by explaining the whys and wherefores of your own use of screens. If there’s a good reason, and there are other people around, and you don’t have to cut out other activities to spend time looking at screens, then it’s probably fine.

Otherwise, you and/or your kid’s teachers or school might be making your kid dumb. If the kid is just sitting there mindlessly watching idiotic television then that screen time probably isn’t as healthy as time spent moving around, reading, pretending, talking, or helping with chores. But don’t hate yourself for it because schools are no better. Great online education materials are even rarer than great teaching in real life.

Too much screen time could also just mean that you’re poor. If you have to work, can’t afford a reliable babysitter, and don’t want to be arrested for letting your kid wander the neighborhood freely, the cheapest and safest option might be to plop your kid down in front of all 130 episodes of He-Man on loop.

Kamenetz does a great job of reminding readers who are rich enough to sit around and read books that limiting your kids’ screen time is a luxury, but she also provides a TLDR version of the book in the final chapter for those who have to get back to their phones.

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