Screen Time’s Opportunity Cost: K-State Specialist Bradford Wiles on Its Impact on Childhood Development

By Trish Svoboda

With screens being everywhere in the country, from televisions to tablets, to cell phones, K-State Research and Extension child development specialist, Bradford Wiles, says that screens are not very helpful for positive childhood development.

Guidelines published by healthcare authorities and pediatricians, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend screen time be limited to one to two hours per day outside of school or work, and that kids under the age of two should have no screen time at all.

Wiles, the author of a publication on the subject from K-State Research and Extension, points out that screen time comes with an “opportunity cost”. He explains, “When you’re spending time on screens, you’re missing out on activities that could contribute to skill development in various areas – physical, mental, and social.”

He said screens are often used as substitutes for babysitters, or as a way for parents and other caregivers to take a break to complete other tasks. He notes that while limited screen time won’t harm your child, it’s important to engage with your children before and after screen time

Wiles said that technology itself is not the problem. “The problem is when you use that tool to isolate yourself or your children,” he said.

“If that tool is being used for engagement, then great. That is how children of all ages learn…through dialogue, discussion and shared experience. The ability to talk, and learn with and from each other is really a benefit to human development.”

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