Screen Time

Every time I hear something about limiting screen time I cannot help but think about how poorly the concept has been thought out.

If we talked about “food time” instead maybe that would help us think that while time matters (eating for hours each day is probably a bad idea), how long you eat probably matters far less than what you’re eating. You have to think about both things. Funneling cheetos for 30 minutes a day is worse than eating carrots for an hour.1

Screen time isn’t a single thing. It’s an insane range of things. There’s lots of screen time that is of Twinkie quality but there are many other options. If I read a book on a device is it screen time or is that reading? If I’m coding for an hour? Editing video? Video chat with my parents? When we reduce things to this extent we end up doing things that ignore the actual problem.

So the next time someone on the radio or TV talks about screen time as if it were a single thing please join me in envisioning the giant cartoon heads depicted below.

a giant cartoon head eating cheetos

a giant cartoon head eating oreos

a giant cartoon head eating twinkies

a giant cartoon head eating spinach


1 Funneling cheetos may not even qualify as actually eating. It’s a chemical endurance sport that will likely be featured in the next Olympic games

Comments on this post

  1. Clint Lalonde said on February 15, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    I could not agree more. I wrote a post critical of the term “screen time” a few years ago. http://clintlalonde.net/2014/03/10/time-to-add-some-nuance-to-the-phrase-screen-time/ I could update that post with a dozen more examples just from our family in the years that have passed since I wrote it.

    • Tom Woodward said on February 16, 2018 at 3:52 pm

      Much more eloquent than my take. I’ll know where to send people who read rather than look at pictures. 🙂

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