I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve started a new job that requires me to be online often, or if it’s the recent discussion I’ve had with my high school students about it in class, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about screen time and how it affects my life and the life of my children.
As a relatively techy mom who spends much of my day on some sort of device, I was forced to dig in and really think about the example I am setting for my children, especially my daughter who is one year away from middle school! I love technology and can find its value in much of my daily life, but listening to the episode on NPR’s Fresh Air Podcast “Irresistible by Design: It’s No Accident That You Can’t Stop Looking At The Screen” really opened my eyes to a few things. The Podcast host interviews author Adam Alter professor at New York University about his book Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked. The most important thing that I took away from it, and one I think we all need to hear, is that screen time is not all bad! Hold the phone! What? Don’t get me wrong, the behavioral addiction that some people face with their screens rivals that of pornography or gambling, and in those more severe cases, users definitely need an intervention. But I’m not talking about those severe cases, I’m talking about the everyday use of screens. Think of the advances in our world because of it. I’ve listed a few below for reference.
- Saves Time
- Ease Of Mobility
- Better Communication Means
- Innovation In Many Fields
- Improved Banking
- Better Learning Techniques
When my sister-in-law lived in California, FaceTime was a saving grace for them to be able to see their nieces grow and keep in touch with our family. I won’t even tell you the frequency our Cozi Calendar app gets opened by my husband or me throughout the day. I love that I can keep in touch with my high school and college friends through Facebook and Instagram. These things are helpful to our family and add value and quality to our lives.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screens from ages 0-2, except to video chat. For the toddler years, it’s important to relate what children are watching on the screen to real life, and keep the programming high quality and educational. So, if children learn about a certain color on a video, bring that up when they are later coloring. I’m almost positive that my youngest child’s ability to know her letters, numbers, shapes, colors and exhibit excellent communication comes from the shows she watches on TV and nothing to do with my husband or me teaching her. #3rdchild
As kids get older and progress into the middle and teenage years, screen time monitoring becomes even more important. You see, by the time students gets to middle and high school all of their friends have screens. I took a poll of my almost 100 high school students (don’t worry, it was private) and only one … one student didn’t have a phone, out of 100 students. I would imagine the number is a little higher with the middle school-aged population, but probably not by as much as one would think. I don’t think it’s fair or healthy to have a no-phone policy once students get into middle and high school. It is not my goal to ostracize my kid. They spend much of their time in middle school trying to figure out how to fit in, and I’m not sure that my no-phone policy would be of any help to their already-questionable state of mind. It is my responsibility as the parent, though, to raise my kid to be responsible when on their device. This will take some work and consistency on my part, I realize. Here are some guidelines that my husband and I will set for our girls (ages 10, 7, and 3) once they reach the middle school age.
- Phones will not have internet capabilities—My kids need their phones to text and call. That’s it for now. They can watch all the YouTube videos and play all the games when they’re at home on their iPad or Smart TV.
- Phones will be “checked in” at bedtime–There is no need for my child to be up watching YouTube videos or texting friends at all hours of the night.
- There is no privacy—My husband likes to joke that our daughters will have no privacy in their life when they become teenagers. I realize he is not actually going to go on their dates with them, like he jokes…I don’t think…but for cell phones, there really will be no privacy.
Banning technology or setting unrealistic screen time limits is not sustainable in the world in which we live. Instead, we plan to teach them how use technology reasonably. There’s nothing wrong with spending a rainy Saturday binge-watching a new show on Netflix or playing a game or two on the iPad. But we’ll follow up with soccer practice and some bike riding around the neighborhood. And, when they’re old enough to process things, they’ll even be allowed to post some pictures and things to social media. I realize there will be some bumps along the way as we navigate screen time as our girls grow, but I plan to take an “it’s not the end of the world if they spend some time on their device” approach, in hopes that it gives my children some freedom and responsibility and also saves my sanity.