Away from the Screen Plan? No, I See a Bigger World

Have you ever heard the saying “if you watch too much TV, you’ll get square eyes”? Parents seem to be worried about their children spending too much time on electronic screens. Recently, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) planned to shoot a short film to reassure parents that if electronic products are used reasonably, they will become powerful tools for children to explore the world.

At the end of the short film, the boy’s eyes became round, and the advertisement wanted to break people’s previous stereotypes about electronics. As explained in the short film, “watching is not always meaningless. Screens can exercise the brain and make them leave the couch to see a bigger world.”

Why should children embrace the digital world?

Children are exposed to the internet at an increasingly young age, almost from birth, making them known as “digital natives.” However, in the minds of most parents, the digital world seems like a Pandora’s box that, once opened, will lead to bad things happening. International speaker and author Jordan Shapiro explores the digital landscape of childhood in his new book, “The New Childhood: Raising Kids to Thrive in a Connected World,” and believes that the online world offers more opportunities for exploration than the offline world. “They find a place to live in that imagined world, and I think that’s positive, especially because it opens the door to new worlds that are impossible to achieve in the real world.”

Looking back, it seems that many strange and interesting things we learned as children came from cartoons, as well as learning how to socialize and share with others through role-playing. Paulina Olsson, CEO of the Swedish children’s brand Peppy Pals, believes that digital technology is a tool to help children develop empathy and emotional intelligence. They try to find a way to link the virtual and real worlds, launching a series of fun games, books, and cartoons to help children shape their personalities through entertaining learning methods.
Moreover, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) conducted a study which found no evidence that screen time itself is harmful to children. Similarly, a new paper in the journal Nature Human Behaviour by scientists at the University of Oxford analyzed data from over 350,000 teenagers and found that the impact of technology use on their mental health is negligible. Many parents try to protect their children’s growth by controlling their use of electronic devices, as they believe that technology can bring unsafe and uncontrollable consequences to their children. Indeed, when faced with the “unknowns of technology,” we may adopt a skeptical and rejecting attitude, but we don’t have to take an all-or-nothing approach, as electronic technology has become a part of our lives that we cannot and will not reject.

However, this does not mean that unlimited surfing on the internet is acceptable! Everything has its gray areas, and the RCPCH has provided some reference suggestions for parents:

  1. Mealtime may be a good opportunity for a screen-free zone.
  2. If a child’s screen time seems out of control, parents should consider intervening.
  3. Parents should consider their own screen use, including whether they unconsciously use devices too frequently.
  4. Young children need face-to-face social interaction, which screens cannot replace.
  5. It is recommended that children do not use these devices in the hour before bedtime, as there is evidence that they can harm sleep.
  6. Overall, research has found that compared to other factors such as sleep, physical activity, diet, bullying, and poverty, screen time has a minimal impact on children’s health.
  7. For infants and young children, parents can intervene to decide what content they watch and how long they use devices.

Electronic devices have become an important way for children to communicate with the outside world, and even a basic tool in the digital society. Therefore, isn’t it time to shift our focus from “screen time is bad” to “what is important on the screen”?