Don’t worry about too much screen time, one expert says

'Their brains are not going to rot because they're playing video games.'
By: | April 6, 2020
Rather than worrying about screen time and hours spent online, parents should make sure students get enough sleep and exercise, says psychology professor Chris Ferguson.Rather than worrying about screen time and hours spent online, parents should make sure students get enough sleep and exercise, says psychology professor Chris Ferguson.

Screen time, social media, video games and various other online and digital activities are pretty much the only way students can maintain their social lives under COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.

Parents and educators should therefore not worry too much about how many hours students—those who are over the age of 5—spend on a screen while the coronavirus keeps school buildings closed.

“We have done a good job of terrifying people about screen time,” says Chris Ferguson, a professor of psychology at Stetson University in Florida. “The evidence suggests that screen time in and of itself is not a good predictor of anything and that it’s not poisonous in the way we might have convinced parents.”

Adults, however, should ensure that children and teenagers are completing school work, and getting enough sleep and exercise.


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“Maybe not everybody knows this, but screen time is very social for kids,” Ferguson says. “Trying to minimize screen time could have a detrimental impact in terms of cutting kids off from social contact.”

Spending time with friends and peers is developmentally essential for the well-being of aging students, particularly teens and pre-teens.

Social media and interactive video games provide these outlets for many students, Ferguson says.

Ferguson says he hesitates to set a “magic number” of hours as a daily screen-time limit, but he also does not advocate unfiltered, unmitigated use of social media.


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Parents and teachers still need to monitor for concerns such as bullying and privacy, he says.

During the months of online learning, parents should not “count” hours doing school work as screen time.

“Kids can go up to six hours a day without any noticeable change in mental wellness,” Ferguson says. “If everything else is balanced, their brains are not going to rot because they’re playing video games four hours a day.”


DA’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on K-12.


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