Two-Minute Warnings May Fuel Screen-Time Tantrums


Parents today face struggles our ancestors never could have imagined, from rampant food allergies to bullying on social media. But perhaps no two words are more uniquely associated with modern child-raising than “screen time.” Doctors caution against letting kids have too much of it, which is easy for them to say—they don’t have to be there when a parent pulls the plug. Researchers who have been studying these screen-time tantrums have some advice for families—like doing away with the popular two-minute warning.

Engineers at the University of Washington’s Computing for Healthy Living & Learning (CHiLL) Lab interviewed 27 families with toddlers and preschoolers to learn how these families handled screen time, and how it affected them. The results of those interviews informed a second study, in which 28 additional families, again with children ages 1 to 5, kept diaries of their screen-time experiences. Every day for two weeks, parents recorded what their kids were watching or doing, the type of technology they were using, what they—the parents—did during screen time, the reasons screen time ended, and how kids responded.

The results were surprisingly moderate. (They will be presented on May 9 at the Association for Computing Machinery's 2016 CHI conference in California.) Kids were okay with screen time ending 59 percent of the time, and they actually had positive reactions 19 percent of the time. Only 22 percent of unplugging situations were followed by tantrums or other negative reactions.

Of course, that 22 percent leaves quite an impression on a parent. "Most of the time these transitions actually go pretty smoothly, which can be hard for parents to recognize," senior author and associate professor of human-centered design and engineering Julie Kientz said in a press release. "If one out of five experiences is unpleasant enough that parents are always bracing themselves and worried about it, that colors their perceptions."

The screen-time diaries did yield an unexpected trend: Parents were better off just shutting screens down, rather than warning kids beforehand. Children were “significantly more upset about transitions” when they had advance notice that their screen time was about to end.

"We were really shocked—to the point that we thought, 'Well, maybe parents only give the two-minute warning right before something unpleasant or when they know a child is likely to put up resistance,'" Alexis Hiniker, the paper’s lead author and a doctoral student in human-centered design and engineering, said. "So we did a lot of things to control for that, but every way we sliced it, the two-minute warning made it worse."

The families’ diaries also dispelled another guilt-inducing myth: that parents plunk their kids down in front of the TV or tablet so they can go indulge themselves. "We did not see parents using screens as electronic babysitters so they could work or do something fun,” said Hiniker. "They usually pull out the iPad as a last line of defense or in a moment of desperation because the parent hasn't showered all day."

Kids seemed to respond better when screen time was part of a daily routine rather than a special treat. They also had an easier time moving on when their shows and games had natural end points, like levels or episodes. Autoplay, like that built into Netflix viewing, was a recipe for trouble. This is important data for media developers, the researchers say, since building in end points could help make a company’s digital products more family-friendly.

Parents also said that kids were more accepting of cutoff points when the technology was to blame. The researchers shared an anecdote of a little boy who discovered a new show while on vacation. When the family returned home and he couldn’t watch the show, he got very upset until his parents explained it just wasn’t available in their city. (If you’ve ever pretended your tablet’s battery was dead in order to pry it from your child’s hands, you’ll understand.)

"The kids we looked at for this particular study are right in that power-struggle age," Kientz said. "It's much easier to do that with a person than with technology. Once you take that parental withholding component out of it, kids are a lot more accepting."

© 2017 USPS
Pop Culture
Speedy Delivery: Mister Rogers Will Get His Own Stamp in 2018
© 2017 USPS
© 2017 USPS

USPS 2018 Mister Rogers stamp
© 2017 USPS

After weeks of mailing out this year’s holiday cards, postage might be the last thing you want to think about. But the U.S. Postal Service has just given us a sneak peek at the many iconic people, places, and things that will be commemorated with their own stamps in 2018, and one in particular has us excited to send out a few birthday cards: Mister Rogers.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Fred Rogers’s groundbreaking PBS series that the USPS says “inspired and educated young viewers with warmth, sensitivity, and honesty,” the mail service shared a mockup of what the final stamp may look like. On it, Rogers—decked out in one of his trademark colorful cardigans (all of which were hand-knitted by his mom, by the way)—smiles for the camera alongside King Friday XIII, ruler of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

Though no official release date for Fred’s forever stamp has been given, Mister Rogers is just one of many legendary figures whose visages will grace a piece of postage in 2018. Singer/activist Lena Horne will be the 41st figure to appear as part of the USPS’s Black Heritage series, while former Beatle John Lennon will be the face of the newest Music Icons collection. Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, will also be honored.

Smart Shopping
11 Gifts for the Curious Kids in Your Life

No matter their age, you want to find gifts that will keep the kids in your life entertained, stimulated, and give them a sense of accomplishment—even during playtime. Luckily, these 11 gifts will do all of that, and will encourage their curiosity to grow.

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Race Across the USA
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Want to get kids excited about the next big family road trip? Or give them some talking points about their favorite aunt’s home state? This board game helps them understand the geography of the U.S., as well as trivia on each of the 50 states and the major landmarks and capitals.

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Whether they join FFA or not, kids can get a head start on understanding horticulture with this indoor garden system. Plant any root vegetable—carrots, radishes, onions, etc—and watch them obsess over the underground view of their harvest.

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Speedy Racer Bilingual Laptop
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Kids ages 3 and up can play games, make their own music, and work on language, math, and memory skills with this activity-filled laptop. Plus, the English/Spanish component will help enhance the child’s fluency in both languages.

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Bike Chalk Trail Kit
Uncommon Goods

Think beyond the coloring book. By attaching thick, non-toxic chalk to the back of a bike, kids can work on increased spatial awareness, collaborative drawings with friends, and may perhaps have a greater appreciation for the large-scale, colorful work of a Basquiat or Pollock.

Find It: Uncommon Goods


For little girls who want to shoot for the stars, this Katherine Johnson-inspired dress illustrates her human-calculator abilities as drawn out on a chalkboard. Rocket propulsion simulation, gravity loss equations, etc. You know, the basics.

Find It: Svaha


3Doodler 3D Pen Set

This wireless pen allows kids to freestyle draw in the air—the eco-plastic filament cools in place quickly, giving kids plenty of practice with spatial reasoning without the costs of a full 3D printer.

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A Comprehensive Curtain Call of Broadway Costumes
Pop Chart Lab

For musical-obsessed kids, this curtain call of famous costumes can serve as a checklist for any Broadway productions they haven't seen (or, more likely, memorized the cast recording and seen the movie version of) yet. Perennial children's favorites like Annie, Grease, and Wicked are included, but you might want to have an answer ready for when your preteen cousin asks to watch Cabaret.

Find It: Pop Chart Lab


The Play Mat by Lovevery

Specially designed by experts to stimulate infants for their first year, this play mat grows with your favorite baby. It has five developmental zones in addition to 24 different stage-based activities—like teethers, mirrors, and colorful flash cards. And, when baby becomes a toddler, the mat converts into a tent fort for further imaginative play.

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Stop Motion Animation Kit
Uncommon Goods

Budding animators who need to fine-tune their skills (and patience!) will spend hours moving these silly characters around slowly, photographing their adventures, and editing the film into mini-movies.

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Young Explorers

Kid-proof and specially designed for tiny hands and faces, these binoculars can help preschoolers get to know the world around them. Play a game like “I Spy” and have them find squirrels in trees, clouds in the sky, or all those Cheerios they spilled behind their bed.

Find It: Amazon


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