Taiwan just made it illegal to give kids too much screen time. The most notable thing about the law is that it fails to differentiate types of screen time. For example, watching a Disney movie is a lot less likely to be educational than, say, watching a video that describes photosynthesis.
And not all media is clearly good or bad. If my kids are watching the demo reel for our reality TV show, does it count as a family movie or reality TV? If my son takes a photo of himself does it count as screen time or art lessons?
All screen time is not created equal. Except, it seems, in Taiwan.
Recent research suggests that unrestricted video games might be some of the most beneficial screen time. And, ironically, a lot of the benefits stem precisely from the video games not being regulated by parents.
The Journal of Play published research demonstrating that a big benefit of recess isn’t so much the exercise time as the time kids have to be with their friends in an unstructured environment. That’s essential to personal development. And, as danah boyd says in her book It’s Complicated, kids are desperate to have time while their parents do not monitor them.
Once you understand the relationship between video games and social skill development, it didn’t surprise me to see another study showing how playing video games at a level of intensity promotes good executive function skills.
Think about it: executive function is the ability to figure out what’s best to do next. It’s hard for everyone, but you don’t really learn how to do it until you have unstructured time where you start and stop activities at your whim.
I’ve been reading lately about the concept of a media diet. You know how we used to have meat at the small part of the food pyramid and now we know meat is better than grains. So we flipped the food pyramid and it guides us better. So I wonder, could we flip our ideas about what media is best for us? I bet that would help, too.
I’ve already posted on this blog about how kids who play video games are more successful as adults. With this new research those conclusions are more sure to me.