Health and Wellness

How Mark Zuckerberg lets his toddlers use their screen time

Facebook's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks to participants during the Viva Technologie show at Parc des Expositions Porte de Versailles on May 24, 2018 in Paris, France.
Chesnot | Getty Images

"I don't generally want my kids to be sitting in front of a TV or a computer for a long period of time," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on Fox News' "The Daily Briefing," posted Friday.

Instead, Zuckerberg allows his daughters with wife Priscilla Chan — August, 2, and Maxima, 3 — to use Facebook's video chat product, Portal.

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan.
Taylor Hill | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

"I let my kids use that to communicate with my parents, so they can stay in touch with their grandparents easily, [and] their aunts who live across the country," Zuckerberg said.

According to Zuckerberg, that kind of screen time — using video to interact with other human beings — is actually good for you, with benefits such as feeling more connected and healthier.

"I think all the research would generally support that," Zuckerberg Told "The Daily Briefing."

However, says Zuckerberg, passively consuming content, or "going from video to video" isn't associated with the same positive effects.

While that may be the standard thinking (the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids ages 2 to 5 only use screens for one hour a day, and kids 18 to 24 months only use digital media to video chat) a new study from the Oxford Internet Institute at Oxford University found that moderate screen use is actually beneficial for kids' development.

After analyzing data from 35,000 American children ages 6 months to 17 years (and their caregivers), researchers found that the sweet spot seems to be about one to two hours of screen time a day. "Screen time" includes using digital devices such as iPads and watching television.

The kids who were exposed to the optimal amount of screen time had better levels of social and emotional well-being than kids who weren't allowed to use digital devices. (In this study, researchers controlled the data for variables that influence digital engagement, such as age and sex, race and ethnicity, stress, social support and health.)

So banning kids from using technology altogether, or implementing age restrictions, isn't the best solution for parents who are concerned about their children's screen use, "particularly as screen usage in some cases has a net positive impact," Andrew Przybylski, Director of Research at the Oxford Internet Institute and study author said in a press release.

There is an upper limit for screen time, though: This study also found that kids could watch four hours of TV or use an electronic device for five hours before it started to affect their behavior. Compared to the average amount of time that kids use devices (about two hours of tablets and smartphones, and one hour and 45 minutes of TV), these numbers are very high.

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