Grandparents have long been associated with letting their grandchildren do things their parents would never permit. Candy. Extended bedtime. Too much television. Carefree fun. They like to spoil the grandchildren.
Now, a research team featuring Professors Nelly Elias and Galit Nimrod from BGU's Department of Communication Studies and Prof. Dafna Lemish of Rutgers University in the United States has shown that while today's grandparents are still true to their traditional fun-loving image, the "party" at Grandma and Grandpa's house often includes extensive periods of time on a mobile phone, tablet, computer or TV.
The study, published in the Journal of Children and Media, suggests that grandparents should restrict media use by setting simple rules for screen time when babysitting. This is particularly important when children bring a device from home with the expectation of having even more screen time than normal.
"Despite the fact that children are spending so much time on television/computer/iPad/tablet screen when they are with their grandparents, we aren't blaming the grandparents. Taking care of energetic grandchildren is very demanding, especially if it happens several times a week. At the same time, our results illustrate the need for special 'grandma and grandpa' programs to help them. They need tools to help them improve screen time, both in terms of the child's development and in terms of building up the child-grandparent relationship," the researchers said.
The study reviewed the experiences of grandparents of children ages 2-7 who take care of their grandchildren at least once per week and found that during an average four-hour visit, the children spent two hours either watching videos or playing games on electronic devices.
Among the findings:
· Many grandparents feel less confident in managing children's use of interactive media, such as games, than in managing their use of non-interactive videos. This may be due to lack of experience with games or apps.
· Some children's parents give the grandparents instructions about how to handle media use. This, ironically, leads to more screen time viewing.
· Grandfathers in the study allowed more interactive screen time than did grandmothers, perhaps because they are more comfortable with the technology.
· On average, grandparents had more difficulty in managing the media use of boys and older children than of girls and younger children. Boys on average spent 17 minutes more than girls with media related activities.
· Grandparents allow more screen time when they care for children in their own homes versus the children's homes. They also allow more screen time when the child brings a tablet or other device from home, as 22 percent of grandchildren do.
· The lowest amount of time dedicated to media use per visit with grandparents was found among children aged 2 to 3, at an average of 98 minutes per visit. Children aged 4 to 5 spent an average of 106 minutes with electronic devices, and children aged 6 to 7 had 143 minutes of screen time, on average per visit.
The study offers the following recommendations:
· Grandparents who set strict rules (such as not more than an hour; not before bedtime; not during meals) succeed in reducing their grandchildren's screen time.
· Parents should supply toys, games and books to help grandparents keep children busy.
New York Post