Our parents never had to deal with this question when we were kids because the world has changed. Is screen time dangerous for kids?

Paul: There is actually a lot of studies coming out that are showing that yeah, there are some negative effects of too much screen time. But you know what? I think it's important to recognize it's not the screens that are the problem. But they are kind of like fire. I like this analogy. You know, Vicki how there was a time when our kids were little when there was a little fire that erupted?

Vicki: [Laughs]

Paul: Do you remember this? And fire is dangerous, right? It can burn down your house. It can consume a forest or even an entire community. We've seen this in the news from time to time. So, is fire a bad thing? No. Fire is a powerful thing. We make that distinction. Fire is powerful. Because of that, we want to put it in the right context or put the right limits around it. We keep a fire in the fire place.

Vicki: Fire cooks our food. It drives our car. But it's dangerous if it's let out of that context because of the power. And I think screen are similar, they are very, very powerful. And there are some wonderful uses of them. But let's get very clear in very real about how we invite those screens into our world.

Paul: This is a very common thing so don't feel bad if this applies to you. But it's easy to put our kid on a screen as a little “baby sitter” for a few minutes while we handle something. The problem that comes up though is if we don't put appropriate limits around it then that few minutes while we're getting a shower, (and how many mom's out there would just love to have just a few minutes)? You need that. And I think screens are actually a legitimate way to occupy a child for a limited amount of time. The emphasis is on limited

Vicki: Right. Especially at any point when using those screens is to avoid actual interaction with your child for any reason or with other people. That's a time to really question yourself and see what your motivation is and what the consequences might be. Vicki, you shared a study with me recently about language development.

Vicki: There is a certain number of words that a child needs to be exposed to before they actually even are ready for reading and it has a very direct impact on the vocabulary acquisition of the child. The study show that it has to be words used while interacting with actual people.

Paul: Actual interaction with people?

Vicki: Yeah. So, if you have your child watching some educational video, that's fine and well. But realize that those words are not actually contributing to their language development and their vocabulary acquisition.

Paul: Not the way a direct interaction would. And this surprised some of the researchers because I think they were expecting maybe it's going to be similar if they are watching it on a program, but it's not. There are some qualitative differences. We need to understand that.

Vicki: Just remember that face-to-face time is really what we are going for when it comes to developing empathy, relationships, language, and problem solving.

Paul: Now, we are talking about, is screen time dangerous for kids? It's not screens necessarily. It's the stuff that they have access to through that screen. Or in some cases the access that others might have to them through that screen. Gaming for example, I think parents really need to be aware of this because in the gaming world, much of what's happening on that little game screen is also connected to a large network of other gamers. This is unfortunately where some predators place themselves so that they'll have access to your kids. I want you to know that because then you can set appropriate limits. If a predator or some kind of violent criminal came to your door and knocked on your door, and you know who they are, are you going to invite them to dinner with the kids? Absolutely not.

Vicki: No. You are a much better parent than that. Who are we inviting or what are we inviting into our homes through our screens? I think there's some appropriate cautions that we can take. Paul: We had a rule, Vicki, in our home that we don't have screens available in our children's bedrooms.

Vicki: Yes. They have to be out in the family area.

Paul: So, the computer or the tablet or the gaming system. Now, your kids might be big fans of, “I want that in my bedroom.” Really? What are we going to allow in to our child's bedroom? Anything that's available on the internet could be sneaking in there with them. Put it in the public place.

Vicki: If they are uncomfortable with you seeing what they are viewing on the screen then probably that should raise some little in your head.

Paul: Yeah. You know, it kind of comes down to you're the parent.

Vicki: You get to set the limits. Not to mention, I don't know very many kids who can afford any of the screens we're talking about on their own. You provided these screens. You can set the limits. Be the parent, set appropriate limits.

Paul: They are not entitled to what all of their friends have or what they think they should be able to access. I love the way you said that, Vicki. Be the parent. You don't have to show up as their friend. This doesn't have to be popular with them. You use your judgement discretion as a parent to do the right thing even if it's not popular.

If you are still wondering where to go with this or some of the other challenging topics that we have to deal with as parents, you would probably love the coaching groups and the digital programs that are available to you. We've got a lot of resources. Go to drpauljenkins.com/breakthroughcall.