Do you think kids spend too much time fiddling with electronic gadgets? If so, you are not alone. Taiwan has just passed a law which requires parents to restrict the amount of time their children under eighteen years old spend using such gadgets. According to the new law, children on the island nation cannot “constantly use electronic products for a period of time that is not reasonable.”
The law subjects parents of children who become “physically or mentally” ill from their overuse of “electronic products” to a fine of up to $1,600.
Putting aside issues of enforcing such a law – which could be complicated considering the law fails to define what is or is not “reasonable” – Taiwan’s law is not necessarily unique in its attempts to regulate the use of “electronic products.” China has attempted to restrict excessive online gaming since 2005, and South Korea already regulates online games as a form of addictive substance. However, the vast majority of nations – particularly Western nations – leave the use of electronics, even by children, up to “self-regulation.”
Is Taiwan taking the right approach? That is hard to say. Laws can be built on good intentions, and still be flawed. Moreover, not all social ills can be cured by passing punitive laws. Still, Taiwan’s concerns appear well-founded. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids spend no more than two hours per day on “screen time.” However, according to a recent study by the AAP, some teens spend as much as eleven hours per day “on screen.” In other words, some teens spend over 5 times the recommended number of hours each day looking at one form of electronic display or another. That same study found that eight-year-olds spend an average of eight hours per day with electronic media.
According to the AAP, overuse of electronics by kids causes “attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity. In addition, the Internet and cell phones can provide platforms for illicit and risky behaviors” by children.
What do you think of Taiwan’s approach? Please feel free to respond with any comments about this topic.