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The Brighter Side Of Screen Time

作者:未知 来源:美国国家公共电台 2019-06-25

(SOUNDBITE OF KOJI KONDO'S "OVERWORLD THEME")

GAVIN WALLACE: Captain MarvelYoshi (ph) from Build-A-Bear.

ANYA KAMENETZ, HOST:

Gavin Wallace, a little kid with a big grin, is showing off his favorite stuffed animal that somehow mashes up Captain Marvel and the Yoshi character from Mario Brothers. Oh, and it plays music, too.

(SOUNDBITE OF KOJI KONDO'S "OVERWORLD THEME")

KAMENETZ: Gavin's in his room in the cozy townhouse he shares in northwest Washington, D.C., with his parents Chris Wallace and Latoya Peterson.

GAVIN: I'm in fourth grade.

LATOYA PETERSON: You're not in fourth grade. You're in pre-K 4.

GAVIN: Fine. I'm in pre-K 4.

PETERSON: Gavin is a character. I should've warned you.

KAMENETZ: (Laughter).

GAVIN: My name is Gavin Wallace, and I'm 5 1/2 years old.

KAMENETZ: It's a weeknight, and that means dinner's underway.

PETERSON: Do you want to help Daddy with the tacos, or do you guys want to make banana bread?

GAVIN: Banana bread.

KAMENETZ: Piano has been practiced.

(SOUNDBITE OF PLAYING PIANO)

KAMENETZ: And it's time for Gavin and his mom to cuddle up on the couch for one of their nightly favorite shared activities.

GAVIN: Let me start the PlayStation before you do it.

KAMENETZ: Video games? Sure. To lots of parents - TV, apps, video games - they're all just a waste of time or even something to be afraid of. But Latoya sees things pretty differently. In fact, she figures the best way to shape a future Steve Jobs or Bill Gates is to let her son play.

PETERSON: I started noticing all these, like, tech baron biographies and whatever - they're all messing around with computers since they were, like, 5 or 6. You're telling me all he was doing was coding and never played a game? Please. So (laughter) if he's interested, you kind of let him do it.

GAVIN: And so...

KAMENETZ: Could embracing the screen work for your family? Well, that's what we're going to figure out in this episode of LIFE KIT for parenting. This is your screen time guide. I'm Anya Kamenetz, a reporter for NPR and the author of a book for parents called "The Art Of Screen Time."

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KAMENETZ: Look. By the time our kids get beyond the baby stage, pretty much all of us have accepted that media is going to be part of their childhoods in some way. So how do we harness the positives of screen time?

GAVIN: Oh, my gosh. Do you want to see what happens?

KAMENETZ: Do you want to see what happens? Well, stay tuned.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GAVIN: Hit X, and it will make a sound.

KAMENETZ: Hit X. This screen time guide has three levels. We'll tell you all about the good, the bad and the parent side of the screen time dilemma. In this first episode, we'll give you a walk-through of four takeaways you can use to find the good in your children's media experiences. Plus, how sharing an activity like TV can actually make your kids more empathetic. Now, we should be upfront about one thing - when it comes to technology, Latoya Peterson isn't exactly a newbie. She grew up gaming.

PETERSON: So it was my dad's system that I was not allowed to be playing on but I was doing anyway. And he had this gold cartridge Zelda, which is my favorite. And I just had to figure this out. I had to know what - this was going on. I would just wait until dad wasn't home, sneak into the room and (laughter) play.

GAVIN: (Singing) Doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo.

PETERSON: Yes, that's from Zelda. You're right. You know what we're talking about. He likes Zelda a lot.

(SOUNDBITE OF KOJI KONDO'S "OVERWORLD THEME")

KAMENETZ: At her peak at the end of high school, she says...

PETERSON: I was probably putting, at the least, like, 40, 50 hours a week in games. These days, that is not happening. I'm a parent. I got a job. Like, there's too much going on.

KAMENETZ: When Latoya does play now, it's often for research for work. She spent her whole career in emerging media, from blogging to virtual reality. And today, she's the co-founder of an all-women-of-color-run video game company.

PETERSON: I'm the CXO of Glow Up Games, so chief experience officer. But it basically means that I design the experience of, like, how the game feels, how it flows.

KAMENETZ: The mission of Glow Up Games, she says...

PETERSON: We're building, like, a community for essentially, like, underrepresented majorities in gaming. So women who play like us (laughter). Hi, sweetie. Did you open the gummy bears? Did we open the gummy bears?

KAMENETZ: So Gavin's getting the benefit of all that gamer mom experience. But what if you're not a gamer? Well, this is our takeaway number one - whenever possible, share screens with your kids.

PETERSON: All right.

GAVIN: So that's going to fly through space, right?

PETERSON: Yeah, this is the one where we fly through space. You're right.

GAVIN: Can you remember how to fly through space?

PETERSON: I'll try.

KAMENETZ: By playing with Gavin, Latoya and Chris are actually following doctor's orders - that is spending media time together with children as much as possible. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the AAP - they revised their guidelines in children and media a couple of years ago. Now, this is the closest thing out there to a pronouncement from on high on how you should deal with your kids and screens. And it boils down to this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JENNY RADESKY: Trying to use digital devices more together with kids.

KAMENETZ: Developmental and behavioral pediatrician Dr. Jenny Radesky is the lead author of those AAP guidelines. That's her at the press conference announcing them. She sees patients and does research at the University of Michigan. She is the ultimate voice of wisdom on this issue if we have one.

RADESKY: I want parents to feel like they should be talking with kids about - what have you been watching on YouTube? And why do you like that? What do you think about that?

KAMENETZ: Dr. Radesky is careful to say, of course, we can't all share all our kids' media time. That's not realistic if you're a single parent or you work a lot or both. Latoya, for example, travels a lot for work. And when she's gone, if Chris needs to get stuff done around the house, he'll put Gavin in front of a TV show or a game.

PETERSON: I don't know any parent that doesn't have some iPad game stashed for their kids on there just to, like, keep them chill.

KAMENETZ: But, she says...

PETERSON: Normally, he's playing with me. Normally, we play together.

KAMENETZ: Gavin's dad, Chris, works as a mortgage loan officer. He also grew up playing video games, but these days he prefers TV, which was on quite a bit during his childhood and even today.

CHRIS WALLACE: Most family events are centered around the television.

KAMENETZ: These days with Gavin...

WALLACE: We definitely do bond with some of the things that we watch. You know, it's like cuddle time.

KAMENETZ: Gavin is totally picking up on our conversation. Just then he decides to divebomb the couch.

GAVIN: (Laughter).

WALLACE: Don't hop on Pop.

KAMENETZ: What does shared media use actually look like? When kids are very little, like toddlers, experts say you should treat media more or less like a picture book. Sit with them, talk about what they're watching or playing and refer back to it later. This helps them learn and retain what they learn. When they get a little older, you can balance shared media use, say a family movie night, with more individual time. But even when your kids are playing or watching solo, you should have conversations about what they're doing. You know, why this slime YouTube channel instead of a different one? Or if they want to download a new app, you should definitely look at it together. When you share screens with your kids, like Latoya and Chris both do with Gavin, you can do a few different things. You can protect your kids from the scarier stuff out there. You can mitigate messages that are not so positive. And you can underline the positive messages and the learning that's there in a lot of kids' media. All of this is what experts like Jenny Radesky call active mediation.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHEN YOU FEEL SO MAD THAT YOU WANT TO ROAR")

JAKE BEALE: (As Daniel Tiger, singing) When you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath, and count to four.

KAMENETZ: For example, let's take a little kids' TV show like "Daniel Tiger." It's designed based on research to teach kids emotional skills, like how to manage anger and be patient.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHEN YOU FEEL SO MAD THAT YOU WANT TO ROAR")

BEALE: (As Daniel Tiger) One, two, three, four.

KAMENETZ: One study found that this show works. Watching it regularly improved preschool children's empathy and their ability to recognize emotions in others, but there was a catch - the messages worked if and only if the families of those kids were already in the habit of discussing and helping the little kids process what they saw on TV.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KAMENETZ: Now, if you're listening out there, at this point your head may be spinning a bit because I know the main message that we parents internalize is that our job is to say no all the time to screens. And actually, we've been misinformed about that. And that's kind of a problem. Mimi Ito is a cultural anthropologist who, for the past two decades, has been researching everything about young people and digital technology.

MIMI ITO: You know, I just love talking to teenagers.

KAMENETZ: She runs the Connected Learning Lab at the University of California, Irvine. And she says it's a much more effective parenting strategy when parents listen to their kids and focus more on connection than control.

ITO: I have to say it's a lot of fun, and I would encourage people to try it. It's a lot more fun than clocking screen time and, you know, doing the finger-wagging thing.

KAMENETZ: She's found that, surprisingly, parents' fear of media actually can be the cause of problems.

ITO: Often, parents have a more negative view of video games than kids do. And so we see time and time again that parents aren't engaged in the kind of mentoring and guidance around video games that they do for other parts of kids' play and growing up.

KAMENETZ: In other words, it's not that games or other media are so inherently problematic. It's the fact that parents don't even try to relate to their kids' interests. That's what makes the online world a not-so-positive space. It's a no-go zone. This leads directly to our second takeaway, takeaway number two - balance is about much more than time.

PETERSON: All right. Go for it, Gavin.

GAVIN: (Unintelligible).

KAMENETZ: In Latoya Peterson and Chris Wallace's house, there's no screen timers, no schedules, no hard-and-fast rules. Media is part of their day.

PETERSON: So we try to be very well-rounded in what he does. Like, bedtime is still stories.

KAMENETZ: Printed books, that is.

PETERSON: It's just games are another element to it. Other than that, Gavin is just like a normal kid. Like, he loves going to a playground. He likes to go to the library pretty frequently, like...

GAVIN: This is my bouncy ball, see? It's very bouncy...

KAMENETZ: Setting balance with screens is an individual thing. It's all about your priorities as a family. For example, Dr. Jenny Radesky is very much in favor of screen-free family meals. But depending on your family, you know, that could be dinner, or it could be breakfast.

RADESKY: Because it's this regular structured time to sit down and look at each other and have a conversation and exchange your thoughts and make meaning out of your day.

PETERSON: All right. All right. Y'all ready to eat?

WALLACE: Taco time.

PETERSON: Nice.

GAVIN: (Unintelligible).

KAMENETZ: Now, I call my book "The Art Of Screen Time" because that's the shorthand or the catch-all for this concept of balance around parenting and technology.

ITO: Screen time I think is too blunt an instrument to understand the really wide range and diversity in how young people are interacting with devices.

KAMENETZ: The deeper I got into the topic, the more experts, like Mimi Ito, gently told me that screen time is not really the point.

ITO: You know, the difference between Skyping with a grandparent on a phone versus watching YouTube videos is something that all parents understand. And yet that idea of screen time is still out there as a way of managing kids' engagement with technology.

KAMENETZ: You know, we want to recognize that there is a reason that parents fret over screen time. There is so much anxiety out there around kids and screens. And a lot of that is very real. We'll talk more about how to set limits in the next episode. But Mimi Ito's research really encourages us to focus not on the time alone but on what kids are doing with that time. Is it solo consumption? Is it social or creative? And similarly, in her research, rather than measure time alone, Dr. Jenny Radesky prefers to look at what families are using and how they're using it. She says that limits should be based on your individual child and his or her health.

RADESKY: Examples of this include wanting families to set some limits so that kids can get enough sleep, so that kids can get outside and explore and do things that make their mind take the lead instead of, you know, always following the instruction of an adult.

KAMENETZ: You should not hesitate to talk to your pediatrician if you have any questions along these lines. Latoya did.

PETERSON: When Gavin started showing this huge interest in games, one of the things I wanted to know was, OK, is this safe? Like, my whole career is in emerging media.

KAMENETZ: She asked her pediatrician about one surprising developmental issue.

PETERSON: And I was like, yeah. I was like, I don't think anybody really notices, like, Gavin's really, like - he doesn't want to deal with buttons or things. She goes, yeah, he's not developing finger strength if he's playing video games, stuff like that, which I didn't even make the connection with because when they're playing with like tablets, phones, like, any of the modern stuff that we give them, they're not building the muscle strength in their fingers.

KAMENETZ: So now they have him stringing buttons for fun and, of course, practicing the piano.

(SOUNDBITE OF PLAYING PIANO)

KAMENETZ: So part of finding balance is sometimes saying no, but that is not our only job as parents. Takeaway number three - be smart about content. As we've heard, Latoya Peterson and Chris Wallace tend to share media with Gavin that they themselves love - grown-up movies like "Star Wars" or "Into The Spider-Verse" or grown-up video games like "Kingdom Hearts." This is good for the reasons we've talked about, but they'll be the first to tell you this system has drawbacks, too.

WALLACE: Yeah, so some of the games have, like, very strong adult themes in them, like, things that are not appropriate for, like, 5-year-olds (laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF SHOJI MEGURO SONG, "WAKE UP, GET UP, GET OUT THERE")

KAMENETZ: So for example, one game Latoya's playing when we meet her is "Persona." It's sort of a supernatural adventure set in Tokyo with elements of film noir and anime. Let's let Gavin explain the plot.

GAVIN: There's a phantom thief, and they try to steal someone's evil heart because they turned evil.

KAMENETZ: This particular game is also rated M for mature, and it features a storyline about a creepy gym teacher. And Latoya says she didn't know that before she started playing with Gavin. Normally, she would check before she plays anything with him.

PETERSON: He was watching me play the game, and at the time, it was the very beginning of the game. And I didn't - unusual for me, I didn't pre-check. Normally, you know - I know who's really upset about this.

WALLACE: (Laughter).

KAMENETZ: Mom and dad kind of disagree on this issue, but in any case, because Gavin's now obsessed with the game, Latoya spends a lot of her evenings after he goes to bed trying to play her way past the inappropriate parts. And there's other issues, too, with content. Latoya and Chris have also banned Gavin from watching YouTube by himself because they don't trust the videos that get recommended by the algorithm. Latoya says Gavin will turn on "Peppa Pig"...

PETERSON: And then, like, three videos later, there's, like, some dude in a pig suit or, like - oh, or my favorite, it's in Portuguese and they're, like, cutting Peppa's head off. It's awful.

KAMENETZ: One popular resource Dr. Jenny Radesky recommends is Common Sense Media. It has thousands of reviews of games, apps and movies. But there's still pitfalls out there, like advertising. She recently published a study that found that of the most downloaded apps in games for young children, 95% had advertising.

RADESKY: So many of them are so bloated with ads that, sometimes, it took up more time than the gameplay experience itself.

KAMENETZ: That's both free and paid apps, many of them labeled educational or based on beloved children's books. And they're swimming with ads. She checked some of them out with her own son.

RADESKY: One of them was, like, "Masha And The Bear" where you could, like, click on a treasure box and you - it would play an ad, and then it would, like, clink a few coins into your treasure box. And then my son was like, oh, I'm going to keep doing this. I'm really good at this game. I was like, that's not a game. That is not a game. That is you just watching more ads and them rewarding you in a way that feels good to you because you're 8.

KAMENETZ: Jenny Radesky says that when our kids want to download or stream something, we should look ourselves and see.

RADESKY: How much are they, like, the kind of open-ended sandbox apps where kids can kind of explore and solve their own problems, or how much are they really constrained apps?

KAMENETZ: Are there lots of ads or in-app purchases? Is there inappropriate content? But the most important questions are the ones we ask our kids.

RADESKY: What do you like about this, and what seems annoying or creepy about it to you?

KAMENETZ: Researchers like Mimi Ito say, ideally, we're laying the foundation for good media choices while our kids are still little enough to sit on our laps. That's because past elementary school, as the kids get older and more independent, we just can't control everything they see and hear. Our role has to shift. And Mimi has personal experience with this. So she, too, grew up as a gamer.

ITO: I came of age, actually, in Tokyo during the arcade game era. So my games were really things like "Galaxian" and the first "Donkey Kong."

KAMENETZ: She played with her kids when they were little, but then her daughter lost interest, and her son got way better than her.

ITO: There definitely came a point where I couldn't keep up with my kids. And, you know, it wasn't fun for them to play with me anymore, quite frankly.

KAMENETZ: So instead, she took a step back.

ITO: ...To me asking a lot of questions and observing my son's gameplay and being more of a interested observer, supporter, cheerleader rather than somebody that was actually playing the same games.

KAMENETZ: So you're basically advising people to parent like anthropologists?

ITO: (Laughter) Yeah, you got me on that one.

KAMENETZ: By the way, both Mimi's daughter and her son are now in college, and they're both currently majoring in computer science. So, you know, we all want to raise kids who can do anything they want to do, be whoever they want to be. And now we've conquered some, you know, big misconceptions that stand in the way of people successfully parenting around media, and it's time for our final boss-level takeaway, takeaway number four. Look for what's positive about your kids' screen time so you can help that positive stuff grow. Latoya Peterson, for example, sees games getting Gavin more interested in reading and storytelling.

GAVIN: What did that says?

PETERSON: Oh, the reading part. Xehanort was controlling Terra's body.

Games are also storytelling. A lot of people don't - like, especially if the last game you played was "Tetris," you might not realize that things have evolved (laughter). We have moved on from "Pac-Man" and "Tetris."

KAMENETZ: She also sees the challenges of games as building his resilience.

PETERSON: One of the big things we're working on right now is the concept of resiliency and not quitting when something is hard.

GAVIN: Sometimes, you lose and lose and lose.

PETERSON: And games are great with that because the whole idea - like, I think we were in some castle, and he was like, Mom, this castle - because I died, like, twice in this castle, like, immediately. And Gavin was like, Mom, this castle's too hard. We should stop. And I was like, Gavin, this is the point. Like, sometimes, things are hard, and you have to go back and try again or you try something different. And I've noticed he does that in his real life.

KAMENETZ: Mimi Ito says when it comes to screen time, even if our kids' interest is not something we would necessarily choose for them, we should watch for opportunities for kids to connect with others over shared media interests and to get creative. You know, even if what they're into is a TV show or a boy band, it can be a springboard to a creative community. For example, there's lots of kids out there sharing fan-created art on sites like DeviantArt or fan fiction on websites like Wattpad.

ITO: I mean, we've talked to young girls who have literally read hundreds of pages of fan fiction and written that many pages of fan fiction themselves, and they'll say, oh, we don't even identify as readers and writers because that's what we do in school.

KAMENETZ: Even video games can be creative spaces - games like "Minecraft" and "Roblox." That's part of the reason that Mimi started Connected Camps. They sponsor safe online spaces where kids can play video games - after school, in the summer - all online.

So you're starting "Fortnite" Little League? You guys run it?

ITO: Yeah (laughter). That's right.

KAMENETZ: It's true. Kids can prepare to play video games at the college varsity level, even get a scholarship.

ITO: We want to make sure that their first experiences of connecting to other gamers online are really positive and safe and supportive, kind of what you would expect in your playground at school.

KAMENETZ: So let's hit pause now and take a moment together to process what we've heard so far.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KAMENETZ: It's time for the replay - I mean, the recap. Takeaway number one is share screens with your kids. I mean, we parents are constantly told that our one job is to take away the screens. Anthropologist Mimi Ito thinks we can spend our energies much more wisely.

ITO: I think that the burden on parenting is really real. I just think that the current burden is being placed on control, and I'm suggesting that you shift that effort to connection.

KAMENETZ: Takeaway number two, balance is about far more than time. Balance is about health, sleep, family dinners and adding back in media activities that are shared, creative, social or focused on learning. Takeaway number three, be smart about content. Read the ratings on Common Sense Media. And when in doubt, check out those apps or videos alongside your child because a lot of popular children's apps are really laden down with ads. And our final takeaway, takeaway number four, the boss level, is look for what is positive about your kids' media passions so you can help them build a bridge to the people that they want to be.

You don't have to be a gamer or a geek yourself to raise kids who use media in positive ways. You just have to look out for what's good and encourage that. And with that, we'll leave you with a sign-off from Gavin, who, since he watched the "Avengers" movie with daddy, has decided that he wants to be a newscaster.

GAVIN: There's more details as we develop (ph).

KAMENETZ: And that's all for this episode of LIFE KIT for parenting. Thanks for listening, and thanks to our experts, Mimi Ito at the University of California Irvine and Dr. Jenny Radesky at the University of Michigan. And a special thanks to Latoya Peterson, Chris Wallace and, of course, Gavin Wallace.

GAVIN: (Unintelligible).

PETERSON: Gavin, don't talk with your mouth full.

KAMENETZ: For more NPR LIFE KIT, check out our next episode, where we tackle the downsides of screens. And if you like what you hear, make sure to check out our other LIFE KIT guides at npr.org/lifekit. And while you're there, subscribe to our newsletter, so you don't miss anything. We've got more guides coming every month on all sorts of topics. And as always, here's a completely random tip, this time from NPR's Nara Kasbergen.

NARA KASBERGEN, BYLINE: So my travel protip is to always bring a little pouch with your over-the-counter medications of choice for different ailments like colds and headaches. And always bring that pouch with you when you travel overseas because what you don't want to have happen is you get sick, and all of a sudden, you're trying to figure out what your medication of choice is called in a different language.

KAMENETZ: If you've got a tip for us or a parenting challenge you want us to explore, please let us know. Email us at lifekit@npr.org.

LIFE KIT for parenting is edited by Steve Drummond and produced by Lauren Migaki, Sylvie Douglis, Alissa Escarce, Katie Monteleone and Chloee Weiner. Meghan Keane is the managing producer. Beth Donovan is the senior editor. Our digital editor is Carol Ritchie, and our project coordinator is Clare Schneider. Music by Nick DePrey and Bryan Gerhart (ph). Our project manager is Mathilde Piard. Neal Carruth is our general manager of podcasts, and the senior vice president of programming is Anya Grundmann. I'm Anya Kamenetz. Thanks for listening.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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