The Atlantic‘s Hanna Rosin attended a gathering of app developers that made games for children and discovered that many severely limit the time they allow their own children to spend on electronic devices.
I fell into conversation with a woman who had helped develop Montessori Letter Sounds, an app that teaches preschoolers the Montessori methods of spelling.
“On the weekends, they can play. I give [my children] a limit of half an hour and then stop. Enough. It can be too addictive, too stimulating for the brain.”
Her answer so surprised me that I decided to ask some of the other developers who were also parents what their domestic ground rules for screen time were. One said only on airplanes and long car rides. Another said Wednesdays and weekends, for half an hour. The most permissive said half an hour a day, which was about my rule at home.
On the one hand, parents want their children to swim expertly in the digital stream that they will have to navigate all their lives; on the other hand, they fear that too much digital media, too early, will sink them. Parents end up treating tablets like precision surgical instruments, gadgets that might perform miracles for their child’s IQ and help him win some nifty robotics competition—but only if they are used just so. Otherwise, their child could end up one of those sad, pale creatures who can’t make eye contact and has an avatar for a girlfriend.
Ridding our lives of all devices certainly isn’t the answer, but we should always allow ourselves time to be bored. Our brains may no longer developing like the children mentioned in the story, but we still need to idle time to develop new ideas. The fact that the technology’s makers limit its use in their homes should serve as a reminder that we should not spend every idle moment fiddling with our phones.