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Kirkorian Offers Screen Time Guidance for Caregivers

Mom teaches daughter for work on laptop
Mom teaches daughter for work on laptop, by Nenad Stojkovic, cc.

Millions of children across America and the world are now trying to learn and play from home, often with the aid of screen-based media and technology, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That has led some parents to wonder how best to manage their children’s screen time both in and out of the school day.

Dr. Heather Kirkorian, SoHE’s Laura M. Secord Chair in Early Childhood Development and the founding director of the Cognitive Development and Media Lab, recently gave a talk as part of a “Tots and Tech” virtual discussion with the organization Children and Screens. In it, she offered parents a framework for helping to healthily shape their children’s media habits by considering “the three Cs”:

  • Context: Is the child alone or accompanied? If accompanied, is the person actively or passively engaged with the child? Is the activity foreground or background in nature? And zooming out, what is the larger context or alternative activities? Do they have access to high-quality educational resources or safe places to play outside instead, for instance?
  • Content: Is the material age-appropriate and educational? Is it simply entertainment? Does it contain violence?
  • Child: What is best for this individual child, based on their age, abilities, temperament, and other characteristics?

“Ultimately, whatever plan a caregiver makes based on these considerations, particularly with the added stressors of the pandemic, should really be treated as a guide and not a dictum,” says Kirkorian. “But my hope is that this kind of system helps people establish plans that lend routine to kids’ days, ensure a ‘balanced diet’ of content, and most importantly, align with their core values as a family.”

View Dr. Kirkorian’s full segment, “What does the science say about children and screens?”, beginning at minute 14 (duration ~15 minutes). She includes general screen time guidelines that she recommends as well as tips for helping kids transition away from screen time: 

Dr. Heather Kirkorian is the Laura M. Secord Chair in Early Childhood Development, Chair of the Human Development and Family Studies department, Faculty Director of the UW Child Development Lab, and founder and Director of the Cognitive Development and Media Lab (“Kirkorian Lab”).