Dan Riskin explores the dangers of devices on The Nature of Things’ “Kids vs. Screens”

The last time I spoke to Dan Riskin, it was for Daily Planet‘s “Shark Week” coverage in 2017. I’ve always been impressed with his (and then co-host Ziya Tong’s) broadcasting abilities. They are immensely smart folks who make science approachable and entertaining.

Riskin brings that vibe to his latest project, airing on CBC.

“Kids vs. Screens,” airing as part of The Nature of Things on Friday at 9 p.m. on CBC, was timely even before the pandemic, and reveals some sobering statistics. Babies can scroll before they can crawl. Children can’t read a map, but they can use an iPad. And teenagers pretty much live on their cell phones. But as stark as those facts are—and there are many more revealed in “Kids vs. Screens”—this episode of The Nature of Things isn’t supposed to scare you.

“There are a lot of really good things about screens,” Riskin says. “They make us work better and they are effective. But it’s good to question our relationship with them and keep it in check. Kids’ brains are developing, and you want to make sure you’re not handicapping them later in life by using these devices.” Riskin, a father of three, admits sometimes it’s easy to hand over a tablet or phone so he can prepare dinner in peace. And that’s OK, in moderation.

Produced and directed by Leora Eisen, Riskin hits the road to speak with experts like Dr. Michael Cheng, a child psychiatrist at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario; University of Calgary Professor Sheri Madigan; and Jess Haines, co-director of the Guelph Family Health Study. He also sits down with families and kids, like 18-year-old Myah, who teaches him the ins and outs of social media; Abby, whose phone addiction damaged the relationship between she and her mother; and Kaeden, a sixth grader who was obsessed with video games.

“The number of kids who are online now, especially during the pandemic, are huge,” Riskin says. “We put this together with the hope that it will make you feel better. The more you learn about screens and kids, the better you are going to feel about navigating that whole situation and the more empowered you are going to feel.”

“Kids vs. Screens” airs as part of The Nature of Things on Friday at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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