Watching The Watchers
Mother Jones|May/June 2021
Let’s stop freaking out over kids’ pandemic screen time
By Kiera Butler

Hey fellow parents of preschoolers: Raise your hand if you know the Paw Patrol theme song by heart. After the past year, who can blame you? In the first few weeks of the pandemic alone, kids’ screen time hit six hours a day—a 500 percent increase—a survey by the child advocacy group Parents Together found. The freakout wasn’t far behind: A raft of news stories warned of an epidemic of screen-related insomnia, mental health problems, and even suicide. In a recent New York Times article, one addiction expert warned of the coming period of “epic withdrawal” when the crisis is over.

I read these articles and thought guiltily of my own kids, ages 5 and 2, whose occasional pre-pandemic forays into the wholesome world of Daniel Tiger had turned into daily sessions zoning out in front of whatever kept them quiet while my husband and I scrambled to finish our work. This was not a good development, according to the experts: For kids under 18 months, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that screens—with the exception of video chats—are verboten. Kids older than 2 should take in “no more than 1 hour or less per day of high-quality programming.”

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