The study reckoned that over 2 hours a day could cause problems. Now I wouldn’t be all that happy if my girls watched more than 2 hours of television a day. But… the reports of this study don’t say ‘television’. They say ‘screen time’. It’s not the same thing.
In many modern studies, television, gaming and even internet are all lumped in together as ‘screen time’.
That makes no sense to me. Gaming is not the same as television. The co-ordination required in a game has got to be utilising whole different sections of the brain than those active while watching television. Not only is the internet not the same as television, but one site is not remotely like another site. One might simply be read, like a book. One might be closer to a game. One might be factual. One might be complete nonsense.
The same is also true within the category of television itself. Often the content is not considered. It’s certainly not mentioned in the articles on this, though it could be in the study itself (I’ll see if I can track it down and find out). Three hours of Saw films is going to have a vastly different effect to three hours of Sesame Street.
All screen time is not equal.
This has been shown many times in research, with some of the most notable studies being conducted by Daniel R. Anderson (University of Massachusetts) and his peers. One particular study of theirs, which followed teenagers long after their preschool viewing habits had been studied, found that viewing educational shows as preschoolers was associated with better grades, better concentration and more interest in books. It’s a really interesting read and available here on Amazon (at a rather high price): Early Childhood Television Viewing and Adolescent Behavior: Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development.
As they said themselves, ‘the medium is not the message, the message is.’
Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean we can dismiss the ‘bad news’ studies.
Yes, flawed some of them may be. But there have studies on the effects of television since the introduction of the medium and a large chunk of the results have not been positive. Even more important, then, to understand that all screen time is not equal. If we are filling this amorphous screen time, whether by creating content or simply by sitting our children in front of it, it’s important that the time spent is spent positively.
After all, Dead Rising 2 is not the same as Dickens on a Kindle. One enhances hand/eye coordination and teaches skills for surviving the zombie apocalypse for starters…