It's way past your screen time

How young people use screens will become one of the hot topics in tech development in 2014, says Vizeum's head of innovation, Chrissy Totty.

Chrissy Totty: head of innovation at Vizeum
Chrissy Totty: head of innovation at Vizeum

Other than sleep, time in front of screens is the second-biggest activity in children's lives. The average ten-year-old has access to five different screens at home and by age seven, the average child would have spent an entire year of their life in front of a screen (Dr Sigman, 'Archives of Disease in Childhood').

Recent reports from across the developed world are starting to highlight potentially detrimental effects to children's health and development that excessive screen time can cause.

Despite more kinetic interaction with Wii games and Xbox Connect, the vast amount of screen time is sedentary. When reports such as the global study by the University of South Australia revealed that children today run a mile 90 seconds slower than their counterparts did 30 years ago (University of South Australia, Nov 2013), our society is starting to revaluate.

Over the next year, apps that are based on basic timing principles, such as @Timer for iOS, are likely to gain more traction. There is also scope for new apps, based on the premise of the iRewards app, to positively incentivise families to reward chores or study with screen time. These don't need to be limited to mobile or tablet, with the capability for the new generation of smart TVs to also run similar applications

Alongside growing interest in ways to limit screen time, parents are also looking for ways to moderate what their children can find online. Parents often hand their young children their smartphone or tablet device to keep them entertained, but other than watching their every swipe, there are few ways to really safeguard what content and games they access. What is new is that manufacturers are developing products just for this need, such as Samsung with their Galaxy Tab 3 Kids.

Previously, the emphasis has been on parents to moderate, installing kid specific browsers for their tablets such as the Maxthon's Kid-Safe Browser, and using apps such as Ducky Tube, which requires parents to pre-select YouTube videos and set limits to which videos their children can access.

A more convenient option that works for all ages might be a monitoring solution such as Net Nanny, which works across desktop and smartphones to not only filter content, but even monitor children's social media posts.

It won't however, moderate the family arguments and issues around parental trust, which this might cause. We predict that in 2014 more pressure will fall on the search engines and content providers to up their game.

As search engines and content portals have better understanding of who is logging in and continue to make improvements in their own dynamic content filtering technology, it will allow a level of moderation and also screen-time limits to be personalised to the individual.

However, one thing that is key to this is finding a common metric to standardise content security and make it easier for users to flag inappropriate content.

Chrissy Totty is head of innovation at Vizeum

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