Originally published on CBC Parents.

Editor’s note: There is so much conflicting information about screen time, and a lot of it serves to make us feel guilty, worried or both. We asked the Director of Education at Media Smarts (Canada’s Centre for Digital and Media Literacy), Matthew Johnson, to give us the straight goods on the latest info. What is the big deal with screen time? Here’s his response.

When you sign up for a service on a website or use an application for the first time, do you read the privacy policy and terms of use thoroughly? Or, like most of us, do you click “I Agree” as fast as you can?

I feel like such an old lady when I’m listening to the radio sometimes. When I’m in the car with my husband we often find ourselves having the I Can’t Believe What Kids Are Listening to These Days conversation, one that often ends with me hitting the OFF button in disgust.

Someone encountering the Internet for the first time might be forgiven for assuming it was created specifically for teenagers. Indeed, the Internet could reasonably be said to have been aging backwards since its birth – the domain first of scientists and the military, then of university students in the 1990s and now children and teenagers. 

People who make their living producing images, such as photographers, stylists, publicists, directors and pop idols, learn how to use those signs to convey the impression they want to make. Although teen girls who are trying to send a signal to their circle of friends and pop music producers who are trying to send a signal to an audience of millions are working on different scales, the principle is very much the same. Depending on your audience, you need to tailor the signals you send out very carefully. Even your age can have a certain amount of wiggle room when dressed in the right signs.

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