Here’s an idea if you’re concerned about young people spending too much time in front of a screen: Pass a law that says parents must put limits on it. The Taiwanese government has just expanded an existing law to declare that under 18s “may not constantly use electronic products for a period of time that is not reasonable.”
That wording does leave some wriggle room for kids who want to eek out just five more minutes on Snapchat, but it demonstrates just how serious an addiction to gadgets can be. As far as the law is concerned, staying glued to an electronic device for too long is now on a par with smoking, drinking and taking drugs on the East Asian island.
The new legislation states that parents who let their kids stare at a screen so long that it makes them mentally or physically ill are now facing a fine of up to $1,600 — assuming the adults themselves take long enough of a break to notice, of course. It’s part of the Protection of Children and Youths Welfare and Rights Act and follows similar rulings in China and South Korea that aim to keep time spent with gadgets to a healthy level.
As Quartz reports, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours a day of ‘screen time’ for children, though some teens can spend up to eleven hours each day looking at an electronic display of one form or another. The organisation also recommends that TVs and Internet access should not be available in kids’ bedrooms.
Pope Francis is one man on the side of the Taiwanese government in the matter: This weekend he’s called for families to spend less time browsing the Internet and more time talking to one another. “The great challenge facing us today is to learn once again how to talk to one another, not simply how to generate and consume information,” he says. “The latter is a tendency which our important and influential modern communications media can encourage.”