Screen Time & Gaming

Screen Time & Gaming

How much screen time is too much? Does gaming really make us agro?

Screen Time and Gaming. How much is too much?

In this episode Eden, Emily & Grace caught up with Dr Joanne Orlando who is a family digital literacy specialist looking at how we can make kids digital lives better.

Dr Joanne offers practical solutions to the digital challenges kids and families face.

We caught up with her to ask about screen time and gaming. Take a listen…

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You can find out more about Joanne HERE.

Episode Notes:

Dr Joanne Orlando (PhD, M.Ed, B.Ed)

Dr Joanne Orlando is a family digital literacy specialist who relentlessly explores how we can make children’s digital lives better. She provides specialist understanding and advice on how we can enhance children’s technology wellbeing. She develops meaningful approaches to online safety, digital wellbeing, and how children can maximise technology to learn and communicate.

Dr Jo offers practical solutions to today's most pressing digital literacy challenges and works extensively in the media as a TV presenter and commentator. She has published her cutting-edge research about children’s digital behaviour worldwide and works very closely with industry as a specialist consultant and speaker.

Most recently, Dr Jo launched her TechClever online program for schools, to enhance parents’ understanding of children in the online space and how they can best guide their kids to avoid potential pitfalls.

Eden:  Hi Joanne, my name is Eden, we’re all so excited to be interviewing you today, can you tell us a bit more about yourself and your journey?

Dr Jo:      Ok, well I could tell you a lot about myself, but I’ll try to cut it down a little bit. So, I work as a Researcher and an Advisor, and what I focus on is how children use technology. In my work, what I do is to understand why children use technology in the ways they do, and how parents, and teachers, and the Government, and anyone else who’s involved in how kids use technology can support them and help them. Because I think children use technology in a different way to adults, and we understand our way, but we don’t really understand children’s way of using technology, and it’s a really important part of life, and we have to make sure that our children are healthy, and that they know how to use technology well so that they have a really good digital life, so that’s what I do.

I work in a University as a Researcher to do that; I work on TV and Radio. I write in the newspaper. I give heaps and heaps and heaps of advice to people in Australia and in lots of countries around the world.

I think that children’s technology use keeps changing all the time, so I’ve got lots and lots of work to do still, but I really love it, and I want to make sure that this generation of children are really well cared for.

Emily:      Hi Joanne, I’m Emily, and I’m eleven. So, what are the recommendations for screen time?

Dr Jo:      Okay, so there’s always lots of talk around screen time. How much children should use the screen for, what they should use it for and what they shouldn’t use it for, so there's always lots of talk about screen time, and every time you open a newspaper you’ll probably read an article about screentime.

Just a little while ago, recommendations for children’s screentime were changed. That’s because children are using screens so much now. So you think they would change in that children should use it less, but they didn’t change in that way. They changed in a way that allowed children to use screens more.

For younger children, children who are about eighteen months, the recommendation is that they shouldn’t use any screens at all. No iPads, no mum’s mobile, no TV, nothing at all. The only thing that they’re supposed to be allowed to do would be to skype someone, or to video chat maybe grandma if she is away, or dad if he’s away, so they can just talk to someone they know on their screen.

For children who are a bit older, eighteen months to two years, they can use just a little bit of screen, not very much, not an hour a day or anything like that, much less. If they do watch it, they have to have an adult with them. So they’re not allowed to be put in front of an iPad and just left there, there has to be an adult with them.

When it gets to children who are two years old to five years old, they’re allowed to watch one hour a day on the day on the screen. So one hour altogether. It could be the TV, the iPad, mobile, laptop, anything, but it’s one hour in total. But the big thing about that one hour is that, it has to be a really good quality program, so an educational program that’s making you use your imagination, or helping you to problem solve, or helping you to do something really creative, so not just watching video after video, but something that makes you think.

Then when you’re six, you’re getting pretty big then, it’s up to parents to decide how much their children use the screen because every child is different, every family is different, and every day is different; school holidays are different from school days, and that’s different from weekends. So, t’s up to parents to decide how much their child uses, and make sure that if they are using a screen, they need to make sure they are getting lots of physical activity. Playing outside, playing sport, and that they also get lots of sleep, because we don’t want children using the screen so much that they don’t get enough sleep.   

Sarah:     I’m just going to jump in there. So that’s really interesting, so from the age of six and up, it’s completely at parent’s discretion now. Is that a change from the last lot of recommendations?

Dr Jo:      Yeah, that’s the most recent change, so prior to that, it was one hour outside of school use, but it just wasn’t working. You’ve got children, it’s really hard to regulate that kind of thing because technology is so threaded through our lives now, and there were so many complaints about it that the organisation that designs these recommendations has left it to parents, and because family life is so different across each family, and I think that’s a good recommendation. Plus, as parents though, they were finding it tough with that one hour as well - it’s just digital life now, I think.  

Sarah:     I guess it alleviates that guilt a little bit doesn’t it. Because when you hear that one hour and you think ‘oh my gosh, much child might run around for five hours a day and then plays for two hours’, you then feel guilty that you’re not really adhering to the guidelines. So, I guess it opens up a little bit more in that regard.

Dr Jo:      That’s right, and there’s lots of health implications. If a parent who’s constantly feeling guilty, that’s not good either, so we really need recommendations that are doable. Otherwise, there’s no use having them, so I think that’s good, and a lot of my advice is around how to keep that balance. Not making sure that children aren’t on their device 24/7. We don’t want that, just how you keep that balance, so some screen time, some outside time, time with the family, and everything else as well.

Emily:      Hi Joanne, it’s Emily again! *all kids start giggling*

Dr Jo:      *laughing* Hello Emily, again!

Emily:      According to our parents, why is screen time so bad?

Dr Jo:      Yeah, well you probably know. Your parents are probably telling you to get off your screen all the time. So there’s a few things that parents really worry about with screen time, because, parents want their children to be healthy, they think screen time is bad because sometimes they worry that it’s an unhealthy thing for children to do, and there’s a few things they worry about.

The first thing is, a child is using their device they’re probably not exercising at the same time. They might be, but they’re probably not. So, they get a bit worried that a child will be sitting on a couch, hour after hour, and not getting up, and not being active, and not being healthy, and getting exercise, so they worry about that.

Another thing that they worry about is, when a child is on their device, that they often ignore the people around them. You might be on the device with your sister, or your brother, or your friend, but often you’re not talking to other people in the room, and they get a bit worried that you’re not spending enough time with your parents, or your family, or your friends in real life. So they worry that you’re doing it online, but you’re not in real life, and they know it’s important to develop those kinds of social skills. They also worry that using a device too much will hurt your eyesight, or will affect your language development, or affect your physical development, like strain your neck, or cause you to have headaches, or hurt your hand if you’re playing video games too much.

They also get really worried about children being bullied online, so we know cyberbullying happens, and they don’t want to put their children in any unsafe situation, so they worry about that too; the kinds of people that you might be talking to online, the kinds of ideas that people might be giving you, and also people just being really unkind to you via bullying.

Emily:      Hi Joanne, it’s Emily again! *giggling* So, I like playing car games and challenging games. Grace what do you like playing?

Grace:     Hi, I’m Grace, and I like playing MBA 2k17 on my Xbox. Eden what do you like playing?

Eden:       Hi, I’m Eden, I don’t really play computer games, but once in a while I play on my iPad.

Emily:      So, as you can hear, we all love playing screen games, so why do our parents try to control it so much?

Dr Jo:      That’s a good question. Well, I think just from your answers it shows first of all, that children like playing different games to each other, and also, some children like playing games more than others, so that’s important to know that not all children like playing games equally and they don’t all like the same kinds of games. It’s just like when you’re playing, and you all like to do different things. But parents really worry about children playing computer games, and because of that, they do what you think they’re trying to do and that’s to control it.

There’s a couple of things that they are worried about. One is, parents keep reading in the newspaper, and reading online how bad video games are for children, so that really worries them. There’s lots of scary headlines that kids are being negatively affected by video games. Things like they might be playing a violent video game, parents worry that a child will be acting violently than when they get off the game. That they might go out and punch someone, or go out and hit someone, so they’re really worried that kids will act in the same way as the characters in the video games.

Another thing that they worry about is that there’s a lot of weapons, all different kinds of weapons, and you’re killing people, that kind of thing, so they don’t want their children to play those kinds of games. So maybe if the video games were about something that weren’t violent, they would feel a little bit better about it.

They also worry about some of the things with screen time, that children aren’t getting enough exercise, they’re not being healthy, they’re just on the couch or on the chair playing a video game. But, the biggest, biggest worry parents that have about video games is that their child is going to be addicted to video games, that is the biggest worry, and that is probably one of the questions I’m most asked about when I’m interviewed. How do you know if your child is addicted to video games? What should I do if I think my child is addicted to video games?

We think they’re addicted, and some children can be addicted, but for most children, they just really love playing the video game. It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s challenging, they get to do things that they wouldn’t get to do in real life, and children really like that. So, they want to spend lots of hours playing them, and they’re probably playing with their friends too, so it makes it really fun as well.

Parents are really worried, and it’s probably something children should know about why their parents are worried. Because it’s then good to have a talk with your parents, and for parents to have a talk with their children to understand video games more and I also think it’s good for parents to play video games with their children every now and then. If their children really love video games, then why not play a game with them. It will help your parents to understand the game a little bit more and will also help parents to know the kinds of rules to put around your video game play. Maybe what they should be worried about and what they shouldn’t be worried about. It’s just a really good thing for parents to do every now and again.

Grace:     Hi Joanne, this is Grace, and I am ten. Can you tell us the pros and cons of gaming?

Dr Jo:      Okay, so one of the pros, obviously for children is they’re fun, children really like them. There’s lots of different activities they can do, they can be different characters, they can play all kinds of storylines, and that’s really good, it’s really good for children’s imagination. Another good thing is that children often play in teams, so a lot of the games involve teams. That means you have to work with your team, and you have to work out what you’re going to do together, and make the decisions together, and that’s a good thing. Team skills and knowing how to work well in a team is good for sport, it’s good for school, it’s good for when you’re older and you get a job, so that’s good as well.

There’s some interesting research that said that if children play some really good quality games, so games where they have to work out strategy, or they have to make lots of decisions, those kinds of games, research shows that those children actually normally do better on their maths test at school, so that’s pretty interesting I think. You wouldn’t think that’s the case, but we know there’s lots of problems with video games as well, so we can’t get away from those. They’re part of video games.

One is that children are playing a lot of violent games, and I think that’s a con. We don’t want children murdering people, and stabbing people, and bombing people all the time. We don’t want children to be playing that kind of thing all the time, because they might get the idea it’s okay to do that kind of thing, that it's normal play, and they might develop attitudes to it that it’s okay, and we know it’s not.

A con also is that when you’re in a game, you spend less time with real people and more time with online people. That could be other players in the game or your friends who are online playing. So we know those kinds of skills are good. You have to be to communicate with people online, but we don’t want to spend too much time doing it, because you also need to be able to communicate with people well who are sitting right next to you.

Another con is that they can be really expensive. It might be a free game, but there’s a lot of things you can purchase in the games so it can get really expensive. I was reading an article about a boy who was eight who spent $5,000 on a video game, getting skins and things like that, so sometimes children don’t really understand that they’re spending real money. They can spend a lot of their parents' money. In this case, it was a boy spending his uncle’s money, and they can spend a lot of money without realising it’s real money. Also, there’s lots and lots of advertising in games, so I think that’s a problem that while you’re playing the video game, you’re constantly being advertised to and constantly being tempted to buy new games. I think that the bombardment of advertising I think is a massive con in video games as well.

Grace:     Hi, this is Grace again. Is it true that some screen games bring out aggressive behaviour in kids?

Dr Jo:      Yeah, can I ask you that question. Do you think that’s true?

Grace:     Yeah, I have a few friends and my brother as well.

Sarah:     Your brother gets angry when I tell him to turn it off sometimes. *everyone laughing*

Dr Jo:      Well he’s probably getting angry because he doesn’t want to get off. So not all children get aggressive after video games, but some do, just like you said. Some people are more affected by the violence in video games than others. Sometimes, it’s because they’re really young and they’re playing a video game that’s not rated for children, they might be rated for teenagers or for adults. So they’re playing a game which is super violent, that is way too adult for them, so they can be really negatively affected by the violence in a game, and that can come out in their play. They can get really hyped up, and don’t know quite what to do themselves. Kids can get aggressive, just like I heard someone say there that they don’t want to get off, we kind of think of that as violence or aggression but mostly it’s just, ‘I don’t want to get off, I’m having such a great time! I don’t want to get off!’ And they can bite - not actually bite someone, but they can resist getting off.

Also, some children are really affected by aggressive behaviour if they’re very sensitive. Children who are socially sensitive, they can be more affected by the aggression in video games. Children who are really stressed. Sometimes we’re super stressed, and sometimes we’re okay, although super stressed times, the video games and things can really affect your behaviour as well.

One thing we need to think about is that, the thing about video games is that they’re super exciting for children to play, and there’s so many things to do, and they’ve move really fast, and there’s lots of action happening in games. So when you play that kind of game, and you get off, normally you’ve got lots of adrenaline running and you’re pretty worked up, so it’s not aggression, it’s not violence, you’re just really hyped up, and you need to let that physical feeling that you’ve got let go. So, if you get off a video game and you’re asked to go and do your homework, well that’s probably not going to work. You’re probably better off getting off the video game and going outside and kicking a ball for a while, and then doing your homework so you’re letting out that physical activity that has happened because you’re playing such a fast-moving game.

Eden:       Hi, Joanne, it’s Eden again. We ask a random question after every interview we do, and the random question is, if you could make one change in the world, what would it be and why?

Dr Jo:      Alright, well I’ve got two answers, is that okay?

Eden:       Yes.

Dr Jo:      Okay, I’ll give you the professional answer and then I’ll give you the answer just for me. One thing I would really really like to change in this world is that when you go on the internet, when you go online, that everything on there was real and trustworthy. That’s what I wish would change, because when I go online, and I do my research, I find that most of what’s on there is not true, it’s kind of fake. It’s people telling you information that’s not correct. It’s images that aren’t real, and lots and lots of problems with what people are putting online. So if I could change one thing it would be that everything online was real and trustworthy. That’s a big thing I want to happen in this world, but I’m not sure if it’s going to happen. The second thing is it’s the middle of winter where I am, and it’s cold, so I wish it could be summer every day. *everyone laughs*  I love sunny weather, and I don’t like winter! So that’s another change I think I would have. *everyone laughing*

Sarah:     I like that one actually, I think it’s a good one! Thankyou for joining us today Joanne and talking to us about screen time and gaming.