Screens are everywhere. I know I ruffled some feathers when I wrote this post, but let me assure you: I am not against technology. Obviously. I am writing this very post on my Mac, which I also use to check the news and weather, shop online, zone out on Pinterest, and communicate with far-flung friends and family via email and Facebook. Most of my own screen time is done in the evenings, once the kids are in bed, but I’ll be the first to admit, I’m probably on the computer too much.
But I’ve started noticing that everywhere I look, kids seem to be glued to some sort of screen, even during the nicest of weather. In the carpool line at school, the kids in the car in front of us are watching TV while they wait; their mama is on her smartphone. At the pizza place, kids are glued to individual devices at the dinner table while they wait for their food, and their parents are usually doing the same. In strollers and in shopping carts, kids have some sort of screen time to distract them. And fine. It’s not my kid, it’s not my call. I’m not here to judge. For all I know, it’s that kid’s one time all day that he/she is allowed to zone out in front of a screen. I get it.
But it has made me wonder. And you know what? Because this is a blog where I discuss my opinions (and that’s what this is, just an opinion), I’m going to go for it. Having our kids exposed to screen time everywhere is bullshit. It’s messing with our kids’ abilities to just be. It’s okay for our kids to feel frustrated or bored. It’s okay, no, good, to make them wait. It’s okay to let them be in their own heads a bit, to look out the car window instead of be constantly entertained. What about daydreaming? What about learning ways to be okay with quiet? Are we doing our young children a disservice by constantly distracting them from life?
I wonder if it’s because we’re all so darn tired all the time. I know I have resorted to a movie on the computer for my older two while Emil takes a nap, just so I can lie down and rest beside them. But recently, I have observed something really interesting within my own family.
I’d say we are very good with not allowing a lot of screen time with our kids. We haven’t owned a television in over 9 years, so there’s never just background noise of a TV someone left on. If we are watching something, it is because we went to the effort of opening our computers and finding some sort of show or short video, and then once it’s over, it’s over. But I was starting to fall back on that too much. I was letting the boys watch close to an hour of PBS every afternoon, sometimes more.
And then, during a wrestling match (right after I had told them not to roughhouse near the computer), they knocked my computer off the side table, ripping the cord out of the side and breaking the power cord. Luckily, the computer was fine. But the punishment was stern: absolutely no screen time for a week.
The first day, they asked me a few times if they could watch a video or play a game. But after that? Not once. An entire week has gone by, and they have filled that time with more books, pretend games, outside play, puzzles, music, and books on CD checked out from the library. They have been significantly less whiney and irritable in the afternoons. Andrew and I both noticed this change about 3 days in, and decided maybe we need to change our family rules around screen time for good.
I know that every family is different, but I ask you this: what have you noticed about screen time with your kids? How much is too much for your family? Do they become fussier when they are allowed more screen time? Have you found a good balance? I would like to designate one day a week as a “video day,” where they can choose to either watch a video or play an educational computer game (pbskids.org has some great ones) for an hour tops, but I wonder if I will lose my mind if I have no down time during the other days of the week!
And please, don’t take offense to my opinions in this post. I am only speaking from what I have seen with my own kids. The last thing I want to do is alienate anyone or make anyone feel judged. On the contrary. I would love to get a good dialogue going about this issue. We are all in this together!