Is There An Upside To Screen Time? The Research And Reality Of Setting Limits

Oct 22, 2014

As laptops, iPads, and smartphones become commonplace in kids’ lives at home and school, parents are increasingly uneasy about where to set limits, or even what counts as 'screen time.' We’ll talk about that, and then also another conundrum of the digital age: whether taking time to teach kids handwriting and cursive in school still has value.

Credit Brad Flickinger / Flickr/CC


  • Virginia Berninger - professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington. A licensed psychologist and former teacher, her NICHD - supported interdisciplinary research focuses on assessing and teaching all the levels of oral and written language in students with and without specific learning disabilities.
  • Rick Johnson – Head of School for Beech Hill School in Hopkinton, NH. His background in education includes teaching history and economics, and a variety of administrative roles. He has two children, in 2nd and 4th grades.
  • Yalda Uhls - senior researcher at the UCLA Children’s Digital Media Center, as well as the Regional Director of Common Sense Media, a national non-profit that helps children, families and educators navigate the digital world. Read a report from Common Sense about the impact of at-home entertainment media use on academic performance here.


  • Research on brain benefits of writing by hand: "Using advanced tools such as magnetic resonance imaging, researchers are finding that writing by hand is more than just a way to communicate. The practice helps with learning letters and shapes, can improve idea composition and expression, and may aid fine motor-skill development."
  • Screen time overview from NPR: "Of course, as media multiplies, it's increasingly difficult to manage kids' screen time. Where several decades ago, television was the only tech distraction, kids now have smartphones, tablets and laptops — not to mention electronic games. 'We need to make media a part of our lives, but in a planned, sensible way,' Hogan says."
  • Negative effects of too much screen time: "The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages media use by children younger than age 2 and recommends limiting older children's screen time to no more than one or two hours a day. Too much screen time has been linked to..."
  • One parent's look at some of the upsides of video games: "Roblox not only let him explore the world and build stuff to put in it, but it was giving his real life a new narrative."