It’s funny (maybe funny isn’t the right word) the kinds of things you start to notice or recognize when you have a kid of your own. I’ve become all too familiar with the different bottles and stroller brands and car seat types and all the rest of it. And I remember when I used to judge parents for putting an iPad in front of their preschooler as soon as they sat down at the table in a restaurant. But now I understand. And apparently this screen time business isn’t so bad after all.

Some new research coming from Oxford University seems to indicate that whether or not you follow the guidelines for restricting screen time for young children, the net result isn’t all that different. The impact isn’t as impactful as they had originally thought.

Children’s health organizations around the world typically release these kinds of guidelines for managing (read: restricting) the amount of screen time that kids are allowed to have each day. We see how young children in particular turn into total zombies when you let them binge-watch PAW Patrol on Netflix, right?

The general rule of thumb has been that preschoolers should have no more than an hour or two each day. The idea is that excess screen time can lead to all sorts of negative health outcomes, like delayed speech development and reduced emotional resilience.

Based on the study, which included some 20,000 phone interviews with parents, there are “no consistent correlations” between adhering to “digital usage limits and young children’s wellbeing.” Kids who did stick to the guidelines (read: parents/caregivers who enforced the rule) had “slightly higher levels of resilience,” but they also had “lower levels of positive affect.”

I’d be pretty grumpy too if I didn’t find out whether Chase and Rubble were able to repair the train tracks in time to get the newest version of Pup Pup Boogie.

“If anything, our findings suggest the broader family context, how parents set rules about digital screen time, and if they’re actively engaged in exploring the digital world together, are more important than the raw screen time,” said the study’s lead author Dr. Andrew Pryzbylski. “Future research should focus on how using digital devices with parents or care-givers and turning it into a social time can effect children’s psychological wellbeing, curiosity, and the bonds with the caregiver involved.”

In other words, don’t use the TV or the tablet as a digital babysitter… which echoes an emerging sentiment among many parenting experts. Maybe I’m not such a bad dad after all.

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