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I get asked a lot about what my “Screen Time Philosophy” is, which seems to be a really hot button topic in the parenting community these days! Today I thought I would share my answer, along with the (unofficial, non-scientifically-backed) reasons I feel this way. As always, what I’m about to talk about isn’t the right way, it’s just my way– and it works well for us!
I’ll start by saying that before I was a Mom, I used to roll my eyes every time I saw a kid with an iPad. I mean, couldn’t their parents entertain them without technology? Way to be present with your children, Mom and Dad. Will they ever learn to have a conversation or be able to sit in a restaurant like a normal human being?
LOL. Oh Universe, what a good sense of humor you have. Cut to about seven years later, and my two kids watch sesame street on the iPad almost every single morning while I make breakfast. I’m not above it. And truth be told, I don’t mind it either. There are so many great shows and apps these days that are learning based, and that help my kids stay focused while I am trying to complete a family-oriented task. The way I see it, as long as kids are watching an age-appropriate show on the TV or the iPad for a regulated amount of time a day, WHO CARES.
I have a profile for them on Netflix that helps me regulate the shows they have access to and are watching, and I also let them watch Youtube Kids. I much prefer the Netflix route, though. I don’t love them watching the commercials on Youtube! The kids watch about 20-40 minutes of screen time a day. Or more when they’re under the weather and resting on the couch. We also will have a movie afternoon sometimes when the weather isn’t nice enough to place outside.
I’ve found that this amount of screen time works for us, because the kids are easy to pull away from the TV or iPad, and they both prefer playing outdoors or with their toys than watching a screen. We’ve definitely gone through phases (Marlowe at around 3 years old, and Major about a month ago) where they’ve started to get whiny about the iPad– wanting to stay on it longer or asking for it first thing in the morning. Whenever we hit a phase like that, I remind them that screen time is extra to “real life”, and that whenever it seems like the iPad is effecting them negatively, we cut it out. Both of those times, I took the iPad away completely for two weeks and did a little technological detox. And it seemed to correct the problem! I think, like with anything, it’s about paying attention to when a product goes from being helpful to toxic…and that line is different for everybody.
My biggest prerogative is to make sure that extreme regulations on certain things in our household don’t create a reactionary obsession to those things. When I was growing up, we were only allowed one hour of television A WEEK. Yep, even in High School. I used to watch an episode of Friends and an episode of Dawson’s Creek. And that’s it. As a result, I always thought about how I was going to sneak in TV time. I would go over to kids’ houses for playdates that I didn’t even get along with just so I could watch TV with them. I would sneak TV when my parents went out, and lie when they got home. The same happened with sugar in our house– we weren’t allowed sweets, sugar cereal, or candy– and so my siblings and I became totally obsessed with it. My brothers used to sneak sweets all the time. To this day, I still think I have an unhealthy relationship with TV and Candy. For example, I’ll stay up for hours (past exhaustion) to watch more and more episodes on Netflix or Hulu at night– and if I get a bag of candy at the movies or something I’ll end up eating the entire thing and get a stomach ache.
It’s really important to me that screen time (and sugar for that matter) can feel innocuous for my kids. That they can experience it, like it for what it’s worth, and let it go without wondering or worrying about when the next time will be that they’re allowed it. Everything in moderation, right? I’m curious about your views on Screen Time, especially with elementary school age kids. Do you allow it, regulate it, or leave it up to them? Please share in the Comments below!
Our Favorite Kids’ Shows…
- Zoo Babu
- Puffin Rock
- Story Bots
- Thomas & Friends
- Elmo’s World
- Sesame Street
- Blippi (Youtube)
- BumBum Baby Songs (Youtube)
- Planet Earth
- Tayo: The Little Bus
- Beat Bugs
- Justin Time GO!
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Photographs by Julia Dags.