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How Much Media is Too Much?

Pete Springer/OPB

Casper and Monica have been friends since they were in middle school. They met in real life but much of their relationship developed on the phone, texting and IMing. In fact, they say, they would often chat online while having in-person conversations with their parents at the same time. You can guess which conversation they found more engaging.

At one point in time, Casper described the most important thing in his life as his “cave” — the basement he had set up as his media den. And he did not want to be bothered by the outside world. What happened next is, well, sort of a secret. The story unfolds in an original play aimed at middle schoolers by Portland playwright Matt Zrebski in collaboration with the Oregon Children’s Theatre. The touring production is free for the middle school kids who attend.

Zrebski’s goal is to create characters and situations that inspire post-show conversations among the kids about their online lives and media habits. A recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that kids eight to 18 are using various kinds of electronic media an average of 53 hours a week. In other words: screen time might take more hours than a full-time job.

Children’s health advocates say that kind of time has all sorts of implications — from obesity to sleep issues to social development, not to mention academic performance.

How much screen time do kids you know get? What drawbacks do you see? What are the benefits? Do you have rules about how much media or screen time your child is allowed?

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