Screentime Technopanic in the NY Times

Nellie Bowles from the NY Times posted three pieces that tried to provide some context around the screentime debate.

A Dark Consensus About Screens and Kids Begins to Emerge in Silicon Valley

This first article discusses parents in Silicon Valley and their concerns about screentime with their children. The article is replete with quotes about how the “devil lives in our phones and wreaking havoc on our children” and screens being like “crack cocaine” to our children.

I do not think that there is any consensus drawn in these areas, or that benefits of edtech are overblown. I also think that we do, or perhaps I should say that we should, have concerns about addiction and impact on development.

Silicon Valley Nannies Are Phone Police for Kids

The second article from the screentime series continued with an article about nannies for Silicon Valley parents and the contracts they are forced to abide by that ban screens or devices while caring for children.

The contracts basically require that nannies will not use screens around children…but the nannies are supposed to also aways have their cell phone nearby to respond to phone calls from parents…and send updates throughout the day to parents.

As if this were not enough, there are also child care message boards in the San Francisco area where individuals share pictures and video of nannies out using screens while with children. They use this content to “nanny-out” the childcare providers and shame them.

The Digital Gap Between Rich and Poor Kids Is Not What We Expected

The third article from Nellie Bowles in The New York Times discusses screentime, edtech, and our classrooms. The byline for this story is: America’s public schools are still touting devices with screens — even offering digital-only preschools. The rich are banning screens from class altogether.

I believe that we should have questions about parenting, and we should have questions about tech use in our classrooms…and we should also question use of screens with children.


We’re increasingly seeing articles and content like this around the topic of screentime. I have concern about the technopanic that is created as we continue this narratives that talk about screens and “addiction,” depression, and worse.

I believe we need to be cautious in our own use of these devices and screentime. I think that adults, parents, are terrified of their own use of these devices and are casting these fears onto their children.

I also believe that we are conflating these technological devices and “screentime” with concerns about social media, and other uses of these devices.

Also, as you read these articles, keep in mind the privilege and perspective coming from the individuals that are sharing this panic, and creating a “consensus.”

For a more balanced view of these posts, please review the following content from Anya Kamenetz.

Tweet thread by Anya Kamenetz on Screentime

While these stories were rippling through our social media feeds, this Twitter thread from Kamentz provided the “unpanicky, thoughtful critique” of this debate that I needed.

What the Times got wrong about kids and phones

Kamenetz dissects the NY Times posts from last week in the Columbia Journalism Review.


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About the author

Ian O'Byrne

Dr. W. Ian O’Byrne is a educator, researcher, & speaker. His work centers on teaching, learning, and technology. He investigates the literacy practices of individuals as they read, write, and communicate in online & hybrid spaces.

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