As a parent of an 8 year old boy, this is a hot topic in our house.
How much “screen time” is appropriate.
Even Gates limits kids’ screen time | News Blogs – CNET News
So bloggers seemed a bit surprised to read that the Microsoft co-founder and his wife have limited their 10-year-old daughter to 45 minutes per day of total screen time for games and an hour on the weekends, plus whatever time she needs for homework,
The debate, however, is not intelligently discussed, in my opinion.
If we are going to talk about screen time, I think we need to start at the beginning. Just to set the record straight, we have to ask: “What is a screen?”
I believe this concept came up based on experiences like mine being raised in the 70’s and 80’s.
This Zenith looks quite similar to what we had:
When I think of a “screen” this is the first thing that comes to mind.
This is a CRT-type screen.
The important thing to know about CRT is that it “paints” the picture on the screen.
From How Stuff Works
The image is created by light moving in lines across the screen.
HowStuffWorks “Black and White TV”
In this figure, the blue lines represent lines that the electron beam is “painting” on the screen from left to right, while the red dashed lines represent the beam flying back to the left. When the beam reaches the right side of the bottom line, it has to move back to the upper left corner of the screen, as represented by the green line in the figure. When the beam is “painting,” it is on, and when it is flying back, it is off so that it does not leave a trail on the screen
This is the kind of screen that I believe most people think of when they consider a screen. So could we define a screen as something that paints pictures by quickly making flickering lines across a surface?
But that’s not what most of us are looking at today.
Today, most of us are looking at LCD screens.
That technology is quite different. It doesn’t paint the screen. Nor does it emit its own light. LCD’s are either backlit or reflective.
A common LCD wrist watch is reflective. It has no light. It simply uses the light in the room.
HowStuffWorks “Backlit vs. Reflective”
The numbers appear where small electrodes charge the liquid crystals and make the layers untwist so that light is not transmitting through the polarized film.
A typical computer LCD display is lit with florescent tubes either on the sides or behind the screen.
Flicker (screen) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
shutters used in liquid crystal displays for each pixel stay at a steady opacity, they do not flicker, even when the image is refreshed
Additionally, CRT’s now are created at a higher refresh rate so flicker becomes invisible:
Flicker (screen) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
For example, if a Cathode Ray Tube computer monitor’s vertical refresh rate is set to 60 Hz, most monitors will produce a visible “flickering” effect, unless they use phosphor with long afterglow. Most people find that refresh rates of 70–90 Hz and above enable flicker-free viewing on CRTs.
So, flicker can’t be the defining factor. Nor can the fact that these images are made up of pixels, or tiny dots.
Newspaper and magazine photos use the same type of dot structure.
So, if dots don’t define a screen and flicker doesn’t define a screen what does? Is it that it’s electronically lit? Is it because it’s not organically created?
I don’t believe simply lumping everything that plugs in as a “screen” is accurate.
It would follow that if you wanted to read a book at night, and had to use a light, it now is more like a reflective LCD screen and therefore should be classified as “screen time.” The light you are using is man made. It’s synthetic. So therefore it becomes electronic. I don’t think we want to begin determining if something is a screen based on the type of lightbulb you choose to use. “A filament lightbulb is natural but a florescent or LED lightbulb is electronic.”
The Chinese invented paper in 105 A.D. At that time it was the state of the art medium. Before then the medium of choice was silk… something only the rich could afford. They were able to place ink on a much cheaper medium and therefore communicate with a much larger audience.
We are now in an era of “electronic ink.” So now instead of permanently displaying ink forever on a medium like paper, we can now shift the ink electronically so the medium can be rewritten instantly over and over.
Electronic ink further decreases the cost of publishing which will put the cost even lower which further extends the reach of books and media as a whole.
Not writing permanently on paper saves resources and reaches a greater audience. I can’t see much negative in that. But is it a screen and therefore something that should be limited?
I think it is quite reasonable to imagine school books being given to students using electronic ink. School systems will save incredible amounts of money. Further, electronic ink allows you to have your entire library of books in your backpack or purse… since you began reading. It will also include all of your highlights and notes you took. The electronic ink medium surpasses most uses of books in almost every way.
But does it fall into the realm of a screen? It requires electricity to run. And it is “digital.”
Electronic ink is closer to ink than you might think:
HowStuffWorks “How Electronic Ink Works”
the three components of both electronic inks that give them the ability to rearrange upon command:
- Millions of tiny microcapsules or cavities
- An ink or oily substance filling the microcapsules or cavities
- Pigmented chips or balls with a negative charge floating inside the microcapsule
Electronic ink can be applied to the same materials that regular ink can be printed on. In the case of a digital book, the pages would be made out of some kind of ultra-thin plastic. The ink would cover the entire page, separated by cells that resemble the cells on graph paper. Think of these cells as pixels on your computer screen, with each cell wired to microelectronics embedded in this plastic sheet. These microelectronics would then be used to apply a positive or negative charge to the microcapsules to create the desired text or images.
So now the question arises: is a thin piece of plastic a “screen?”
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is the Best E-Ink Screen You Can Buy [REVIEW]
Organic light-emitting diode.
OLED – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
a film of organic compound which emits light in response to an electric current.
We are now entering a phase where organic compounds are being organized electronically to display images on surfaces that are closer to paper than they are to glass.
Is that a screen?
If you could display OLED imagery on a piece of paper, is a piece of paper a screen?
And if so, should we be discussing limiting “paper” time?
The conversation is worth having.
Ultimately, limiting “screen time” is an outdated discussion.
The discussion needs to be around the content and not the device.
A mindless episode of Dukes of Hazard will likely be able to be watched on a thin piece of plastic in the next 5 years.
It’s the Dukes of Hazard that is crap. It’s not the plastic.
Limiting activities should be the discussion. Otherwise talking about limiting screen time is going to push you into an absurd corner.
But even that is complicated.
Did you ever have a limit on “phone time” as a teenager? If not, why would you have a limit on FaceTime?
Did you have a limit on the amount of time you could spend with your pen pal?
What if you child’s best friend lives in Beijing? Or what if they go to another school across town?
Do you really want to limit the social interactions of your child simply because that’s not how you did it when you were a kid and it’s on a “screen”? Are those relationships less real because they take place on some sort of electronically charged surface? If they sent them a letter written with a ball point pen, is that a higher quality experience?
“Why don’t they call them on the phone, like I did?”
I’m quite sure your parents thought you were insane too.
I’m inclined to say: “Let’s limit our children’s one-way, isolating activities.”
But what if they are into coding, video editing, Photoshop?
Would you be as upset if your child was drawing using a pencil?
They both are art. They both are creative.
I think there are things we can agree on:
- Too much gaming.
- Too much video watching.
But then it suddenly becomes sketchy to me. After that, the activities move into social, creative realms.
Do you limit that because it is on a medium you aren’t comfortable with yourself?
These are the questions we need to be asking as parents in the 21st century.
But no matter what answers we come to, “limiting screen time” is something we should stop talking about because it is meaningless.