Are iPhones Bad for Kids？
Pamela Druckerman 帕梅拉·德鲁克曼
There's one in every neighborhood: a parent who allows unlimited screen time. They exist to make the rest of us feel better. Our own offspring might spend hours texting or watching cartoons. But at least we have rules.
When we pass these other families in the supermarket， their dazed toddlers staring into iPads， we think — smug but terrified — we're not that bad.
Or are we？ Two new books about kids and screens — Anya Kamenetz's “The Art of Screen Time” and Naomi Schaefer Riley's “Be the Parent，Please” — examine the evidence and offer advice for anxious parents. How much screen time is too much？ And might screens be just another way to guilt parents — and mothers， in particular — into thinking that we're not doing enough？
Alas， the evidence is incomplete. Researchers aren't allowed to overstimulate a random sample of babies to see what happens to their brains. Scientists even have trouble running studies in which some participants watch less; one said he could get families to reduce their screen times only by 20 minutes. And the iPad hasn't even celebrated its eighth birthday.
But there are worrying correlations. Kids who watch more than two hours of TV per day have double the risk of childhood obesity. Those who watch screens before bed sleep less， making it harder to concentrate and learn. And simulated violence can desensitize children to real-life suffering，and is linked to increased anxiety and fear.
Kamenetz is the more soothing voice. She points out that not every child will suffer ill effects. As with food allergies， “for lots of kids， a peanut is just a peanut.” She advocates an approach inspired by Michael Pollan's well-known dictate on food: “Enjoy screens. Not too much. Mostly with others.”
Riley advocates radically scaling back children's screen time， and intensively surveilling online behavior. “Many kids will be fine even without these restrictions， and some kids will fall into trouble even with them. But as parents， it's time for us to stop playing the odds.”
Even if digital media isn't diabolical， it has opportunity costs. The hours kids spend on devices is time they could have spent reading， studying， interacting with other humans or frolicking outdoors.
In France， where I live， parents are struggling to get their heads around the dangers. The government recently announced that， from September， it will ban phones in primary and secondary schools， for reasons of “public health.”Meal times are typically sacrosanct， screen-free zones.
Most French parents already believe in a conclusion that Kamenetz and Riley endorse: If you don't constantly entertain kids， they'll learn to entertain themselves. And the French are suspicious of too much of anything. The biggest reason I hear for why kids don't spend more time on devices isn't that screens are terrible; it's that they don't have time.
That's basically Kamenetz's message too. Her best advice might be to prioritize other activities， and allow screens only afterward.
Sleep is paramount: She recommends no screens before bedtime， and none in bedrooms， ever. And she advocates communication over surveillance，making questions like “what did you see online today？” part of dinnertime conversations.
I liked Kamenetz's unpanicky， thoughtful critique. While it wasn't thrilling to consume even well-written books on kids and screens， it was worth reflecting on the evidence， and reckoning with my family's relationship to these consuming devices.