It’s happening a lot. Screen Time. In the car, at restaurants, at home, at school, in bed, in their rooms, on public transport.
The fact is, all this screen time is relatively new for our children. And only when our generation of children reach adulthood, will we begin to research and make sense of the effects of this screen time.
I’m worried though. I’m worried about the excuses we make for it. And this one is the biggest one of all.
“I let them use it, but only when it’s educational”
What do you think about that? Is that you? How do we know it is educational? Is it because they can complete the jigsaw. add up numbers or recite the alphabet? Did your child learn a fundamental skill like that through an ipad which made you say “Wow! That is a great app!”
All those things above are fantastic, and they are fundamental, sure. But it’s still concerning. Because there are no fine motor skills involved. There is no scaffolding in the learning. Tapping and swiping are not going to teach my child how to hold a pencil. Hearing affirmation and encouragement from an automated voice is not going to teach my child to accept praise and encouragement from a human being. It is not going to teach them to relate to others or the complexities of language involved in face to face communication.
If Tom gets too much screen time in the day he becomes so reliant on it that he has massive tantrums when it goes off. He isn’t necessarily watching the TV, but he wants it on in the background and he will refer to it from time to time.
I’m not totally against it. Sometimes we hop up on the couch and watch Sesame Street and we say the letters and numbers together. Other times we dance to The Wiggles. There are other times where Play School has inspired his imaginary play.
I think it’s OK…in balance. I think it becomes a problem when we, as a parent, are relying on it more than what they are, to amuse, or educate our children. This is a tool. It is not the answer.
Tom is 2 and a half and he does not use the ipad or phone for any games at any time. He went through a phase where he did but that ended a while ago. He watches ABC2 sometimes.
Here is how we limited it in our house:
1. BE FIRM
Let them throw that tantrum. Tell yourself that all tantrums end at one stage or another. Be there to support them emotionally and let it pass!
Anything you make a big deal out of, they will make a big deal out of. Sometimes I swiftly walk past, switch the TV off at the same time I offer Tom a tempting alternative. He barely has time to react, and usually decides the alternative is a better idea anyway.
3. Offer other things to do
Find something they like to do that they will decide is much more fun. “Let’s get our gumboots on and go outside!” wins every time. I don’t make a big thing out of it, just pop the TV off (or take the ipad and pop it out of sight).
4. Be a role model
This one can be hard for me – PUT THE PHONE DOWN! I always tell myself that. I’m at home to be with my kids, be in the moment. I try and get most of my ‘phone’ jobs done first thing, then during nap time.
5. If you have an off day, don’t despair
Today, my day started at 3:30am. I was feeling sick and lethargic. It’s the first time in a long time I didn’t really feel ‘present’ with the kids and I feel like Tom got a bit too much TV. I’m not beating myself up over it. We always have tomorrow.
Are screens a godsend or a complete nightmare? For me, they are somewhere inbetween. I want my child to explore our amazing technology, but I don’t want him to miss out on initiative, creativity, logic and the world in front of him.
What are your thoughts? Do you agree? Are you on the road to less screen time for your children?