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Restricting Kids’ Online Usage Should Focus on Content Rather Than Screen Time, Say Panelists at Slate Event

Adrienne Patton



March 27, 2020 – Before the coronavirus pandemic, the nation’s dialogue about appropriate screen time was so focused on time instead of substance, said author Lisa Guernsey, speaking during a “Social Distancing Social” hosted by Slate author Dan Kois.

Guernsey expressed hope that social distancing and the subsequent increase in dependence on technology will change the conversation in the right way.

Now screen time includes speaking with friends and family that kids cannot see due to social distancing, said Kois. Screen time isn’t necessarily alone time, but now a way to maintain social interaction when in-person events are unwise.

There is still so much creativity that kids can explore through screens, said Guernsey.

“There is some really good research on TV shows that are made for kids,” said Guernsey. These shows have been crafted uniquely for children in a way that is educational and meaningful: Super Why, Blue’s Clues, PBS programs, said Guernsey.

Also, engaging in a conversation with your children about the shows they have seen can stimulate robust discussions in the home, advised Guernsey.

Amid schools shutting down for the rest of the academic year or extended periods, screens are “where learning is going to happen,” said Kois.

Kois asked how parents can motivate their kids to do schooling now that the environment has radically changed.

Guernsey suggested that parents teach in creative and diverse ways that cannot necessarily be done in a traditional classroom.

An audience member asked how to communicate with unsympathetic employers that think children can just be preoccupied with screen time for hours.

Guernsey said children need breaks and need their parent’s affection, especially during the pandemic. Children can sense what is going on even if they are really young, said Guernsey.

She suggested referring the employer to articles or research that detail what children need at this anxious time. Slate also has resources detailing the struggles of working Americans during the pandemic.

Guernsey said research by the American Academy of Pediatrics is context-based. For young children, using media with engaged parents can be a very positive learning experience.


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