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Should Governments Regulate Screen Time?

IN THE ZONE Video games are a popular form of entertainment. But some people think kids spend too much time staring at screens.
IN THE ZONE Video games are a popular form of entertainment. But some people think kids spend too much time staring at screens. MIGUEL SANZ—GETTY IMAGES

In fall 2021, the United States Senate held a hearing about Facebook. Senators discussed whether the platform is harmful for younger users. Senator Dan Sullivan, of Alaska, suggested that national screen-time limits could protect kids. He referenced something that took place in China last year.

On August 30, the Chinese government announced that kids would no longer be allowed to play online games Mondays to Thursdays. On most weekends and holidays, they would be limited to an hour a day of online gaming. Kids would need to register to play. Their time could be tracked. “Recently, many parents have reported that game addiction among some youths and children is seriously harming their normal study, life, and mental and physical health,” the Chinese government said online.

This news and Senator Sullivan’s suggestion got us thinking. Should a government be responsible for limiting how much time kids can spend online? We asked TIME for Kids readers to share their opinion. Many of you wrote to us with your thoughts.

COURTESY VICKY NING

Justin Lining, 10

Bellevue, Washington

Most people are obsessed with their phones and TVs. You can hurt your eyes and waste your time by being addicted to screens. And watching a lot of TV or playing games can interfere with kids’ learning and social skills, jeopardizing their future. If the government limited screen time, people would be encouraged to spend more quality time with their family or join a sports team in their neighborhood.

COURTESY TIMOTHY MCNEELY

Esmé McNeely, 11

Tacoma, Washington

The government should not be allowed to set screen-time limits. That decision should be up to parents or guardians. Some children need more screen time than others. Some children need to use screens for homework. And during quarantine, one of the only ways to talk to friends was online. Government limits would not be fair to people who are responsible with their screen time.

COURTESY KATHEE BOWES

Jacie Lynch-Plaisted, 12

Elmira, New York

The government should set screen-time limits. That’s because kids can forget how to socialize. And they can neglect to take care of their mental health if they are staring at a screen for too long.

In addition, without screen-time limits, kids can sometimes stay up too late. Staying up too late can be bad for a person’s sleeping schedule. Not getting enough sleep can make you feel tired during the day. And feeling tired during the day can affect your performance in school.

COURTESY ANTHONY BARONE

Lucas Barone, 11

Washington, D.C.

The government should not limit screen time. A 2021 study from the University of Colorado Boulder says that screen time may be less harmful to kids than people think. Some parents worry that children who are on screens too much won’t make friends. But the study reports that screen time can actually improve kids’ friendships with others.

Screen time can be educational. It can help kids do a lot of good work. I use websites to read and to learn math. And kids can become healthier by using certain apps. For example, you can learn how to do yoga from screens!

COURTESY WEN SHI

Xiuhan Zhu, 9

Hopkinton, Massachusetts

I think the government should take action and limit screen time for kids. Too much screen time can lead to exhaustion and a decrease in socialization. And smartphones are distracting. People who use them are more likely to trip or get into car accidents.

Devices like computers can also be harmful for kids. If children aren’t careful with the websites they use, criminals can get access to important information.

Instead of keeping busy on the screen, try doing something fun and creative, such as making origami, reading books, playing sports, or tinkering with Legos.

COURTESY MARISELA CUARA

Belem Gaeta Cuara, 10

Hudson, Colorado

The government should not set screen limits for a few reasons. First, kids need time to unwind after school. They should have as much time on screens as they want. I work hard all day, and looking at something on a screen when I get home helps me settle down and relax.

Second, kids should have the right to talk with friends online and play their favorite games. Friendships are very important, and playing a game with your buddy can put a smile on your face.

Third, screens help kids develop their knowledge.

COURTESY AKSHAY SHAH

Akshay Shah, 9

Scotch Plains Township, New Jersey

Spending too much time looking at screens can lead to poor grades, strain on the eyes, and loss of sleep. According to a national survey done by the Kaiser Family Foundation, children ages 8 to 18 years old spend an average of seven hours and 38 minutes on entertainment media on most days. And that data was published in 2010! About half of the students reported to be heavy media users got low or fair grades in school. With screen-time limits, kids would have more time to go outside, exercise, read a book, or play a game.

The Next Debate! Should schools give kids days off for mental health? Email your opinion to tfkeditors@time.com by April 6. Your response might be featured in an upcoming issue.

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