We live in the digi-age; so tech is both an integral and inescapable part of life. Immediate access to people and information is both incredible and tyrannous–the art is to find balance.
A common question to which this balancing act seems most applicable is, can a meaningful parent-child encounter occur over Skype?–and, given the consistently bad press kids’ screen time gets, should we be utilising this option even if the answer is “yes”?
The issue with the pandemic of children’s heavy-handed tech usage is largely that it shrinks their breadth of experience; nothing compares to the full sensory package of being physically present in a moment. The same goes for connecting via video chats–but the parenting reality is one that constantly negotiates between being physically present and not, so that kids can eat, go to uni…and Legoland. So compromise is inevitable if Dad or Mum don’t want to miss the ritual rendition of “don’tletthebedbugsbite” before bed—even if from the Marriott foyer.
The American Academy of Paediatrics acquiesces to the times by tacking on an addendum to their recommendation to keep children free from screens until the age of 18 months: tech time is considered beneficial (or at least not as detrimental) in the context of virtually engaging with loved ones.
The Canadian Paediatric Association points out the problem in this ostensibly sensible balance:
“The digital landscape is evolving more quickly than research on the effects of screen media on the development, learning, and family life of young children.”
In short, the AAP has only allowed for this exception–not because science has categorically backed it–but because it must; technology is proliferating and permeating the home faster than research into its effects can keep up.
What science does say is that video chats are unlikely to affect young children’s vision or cause radiation damage. Also; video chats better enhance relationships if phone calls are the only alternative: non-verbal communication, if only on a screen, is a big deal.
The trick to all this is to ensure a Skype session isn’t just part of a longer list of stuff-to-do-using-your-smartphone. Each time your young ones see you pick up that device, they should know your aim is intentional, constructive, and with specific time frame–unless Dad reading Dr Seuss turns into Dad reading three Dr Seuss’s.
Can FaceTime replace face-to-face time? It’s a good last resort. But it’s not a perfect replacement.