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Something about this topic disturbs me. I would always have loved computers no matter what, but if my parents had restricted my screen time during my obsessive periods I don't think I would be half the programmer I am today.



It depends on what your goals for your kids are. It also depends on the quality of screen time. Youtube != Programming != Video gaming != Documentaries != Movies != TV.

Personally, my primary goal for my son is not to make him the best programmer out there. I want him to be a good, happy person first and foremost. If there are things I can do to make him a better programmer that would hurt the chances of him being happy and good, then I will probably prefer instead to hurt his chances of being a good programmer.

Screen time is one of those things that I'm somewhat concerned about. Some kids get a lot of it these days. I'm not normally one for fearmongering, but the studies I've seen coming out don't necessarily take a very positive view of its effects.


This. My mother was worried with all the time I spent in front of the computer. I wasn't always doing educational stuff, but I wouldn't have become the programmer I am today without that (three quarters wasted) screen time. When our household got dial-up, I remember taking some beating (literally) from my father because the programs I was using, Borland C++ and IDA Disassembler, had the interface layout similar to mIRC.


I feel you. But it is a double edged sword, I think. My parents didn't try very hard to understand computers in the early 1990s and soon I, while barely a teenager, became the expert in the house regarding this wonderful device. If they hadn't let me, as you, I wouldn't have been the programmer I am today, nor would I have the career I have today. At the same time, however, I'd have liked to explore the computer together with my parents and siblings. I would have liked a mentor of sorts to guide my learning trajectory regarding computers. In the end, however much I enjoyed it, I think my "screen time experience" could have been so much more.

Should my parents have restricted my screen time? Sometimes, yes. But more importantly, they should have tried to make my screen time more meaningful to me instead of leaving me to my own devices.


I understand the unease. Most parents asking this question are just seeking reassurance about what their child does.

We know there are some problems with excess screen tine (mostly sleep hygiene, but can combine with speech problems in extreme cases) so it's a good thing that parents ask.

Parents normally know if they have a neuro-atypical child and would tailor the questions appropriately.


My parents were like this. They hated video games, and to them the only thing a computer was capable of was video games. They would heavily limit "screen time" or ban it outright, regardless of what I was doing. I would need to spend time doing activities they approved of to earn more "screen time."

Writing code?

"Stop playing video games and go outside."

Toying with Linux?

"Stop playing video games and go outside."

Playing World of Warcraft?

"Stop playing video games and go outside."

When I was able to get "screen time" I usually spent more of it playing video games instead of being productive, because that time was so limited.

I would regularly "hang out" on a forum dedicated to amateur story-writers sharing and critiquing each other. I wrote my stories in a notebook, with a few drafts and rewrites, then when I sat down at our computer and the "computer timer" began, I would race to type it up and submit the story, then print out a few other members stories to read during the week, and race to type out reviews for the stories I had printed last time. Then hopefully I had enough time to run a dungeon with friends, or play some Counter Strike.

So I was able to work on my writing offline, but I don't believe that did me any favors. Having access to a spellchecker and Wikipedia while I wrote would have been amazing, instead of a dictionary and no reference materials.

I could be programming, and have to stop and spend a certain amount of time outside. Some days I would spend the time outside just sitting and thinking about my program, working out solutions, I quickly learned that typing is the least essential part of programming. But without Google or documentation, it was hard. I only had one "Teach yourself C++" book, which was not a reference book.

It just wasn't fun, programming at home. Having to stop after two hours, the looks of disapproval as my parents walked by (as if I were doing drugs right in front of them), and being interrupted frequently while working. When I was on the computer, my parents were more likely to assign me pointless chores ("The dog's water bowl is half-empty, fill it up, please") while the "computer timer" was still ticking.

I started a programming club at my high school, and would stay late most days just teaching myself to code, because I didn't want to go home. I remember I would download the source to games I enjoyed, print out about a hundred pages of code and study it. If I was reading code on a screen, I was ruining my life. But if I was reading it on paper, everything was okay.

Of course, I was no saint. I was sucked into World of Warcraft, as were all my friends. I know I have an addictive personality, but it doesn't just apply to negative things. I'm just as "addicted" to programming. I was just as "addicted" to reading and writing science fiction. I don't write anymore, and music took its place. It always finds an outlet anyways, I spent all of my money on comic books and trading card games because those somehow made my parents happier than when I was programming. I wish I had learned better self-control when I was younger instead of learning how to grind through hours of other activities, just to get back to grinding in the game.

The restrictions also made me seem much worse. When a dungeon takes two hours to run, and you only have two hours to use the computer, you get frantic. You call your friends and let them know "I can be on from 3 to 5 Saturday. Be on then, and please don't be late." You're be anxious while the computer starts, while the game loaded. The whole time, this egg-timer above the desk was ticking down. I would be furious when I was kicked off minutes before reaching the final boss. My parents thought video games just made people behave like that. It was even worse when we wiped (when everyone dies), because then I knew it was impossible to complete in time. Thankfully my friends were nice people, and put up with it. Many other people would have just found a new healer.

Sorry, this thread made me want to rant. Please don't restrict mediums. Restrict activities.


This sounds... horrible. My parents frequently threatened that they will restrict my time on computer, but happily they didn't.

OP: I don't quite understand. What your child should be doing? Read paper book, because it's better than reading something on screen?


Have your parents come around at all on this, or do they think you're getting paid to do things they don't approve of now?

Please don't restrict mediums. Restrict activities.

That's a great way of putting it.


They are still pretty disappointed with my current job, but I'm doing very well and they're happy that I'm successful, even if they don't understand how or why. I left college to work, so there's always that spiel of "You really should quit your job and go back to college" at family gatherings. But recently they've been saying that less and less.




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