Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

When It Comes To Screen Time, Content Matters

When it comes to screen time, it’s not just about the amount of time a child is looking at something but also what he is seeing and how he is interacting with it, according to Lisa Guernsey.";

Any parent of young kids--or even older ones for that matter--struggles with the question of how much screen time kids should be exposed to in a given day or week. Experts say it should be limited, but what's the definition of "limited"? And how realistic is it in a 21st-century life populated by screens on every device from phones to tablets and computers, before we even get to TV's?

Lisa Guernsey is the author of Screen Time: How Electronic Media – From Baby Videos to Educational Software Affects Your Young Children. She'll be speaking about these issues at the University of Vermont this week. She’s also director of the Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says kids under 2 years old should have no screen time, and for those older than 2, it should be one to two hours at most.

But Guernsey said most parents don’t stick to that recommendation. Educated parents are more likely to be aware of the requirements and feel guilty about not sticking with it on a daily basis. “This technology is all around us now and it’s part of families lives now, so we have to find ways of working with it,” Guernsey said.

She said it’s not just about the amount of time a child is looking at something but also what they are seeing and how they are interacting with it. She summarizes the concerns about media in the book as being about  content, context and child. “How is your individual child reacting to, and getting interested in what they are seeing?”

Screen time differs for families based on their income brackets. Lower income parents want make sure their children have access to media. “Because they see how much it matters in their everyday lives and for the prospects of career trajectories to be able to be facile with technology,” Guernsey explained. She said families who are already awash with technology are concerned about time away from screens. “They are worried because they themselves as parents are constantly in front of computers and want to make sure their children have time for face to face interaction.”

Guernsey said the bottom line is that content really matters. Children who have been exposed to educational content don’t experience the same negative effects on attention later in life.

Lisa Guernsey will be speaking on Thursday night at the UVM Davis Center, as part of an event by the Vermont Humanities Council and the Vermont Association for the Education of Young Children.

Melody is the Contributing Editor for But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids and the co-author of two But Why books with Jane Lindholm.
A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
Latest Stories