Technology is an integral and growing part of our daily lives. As a parent, I have to grapple with how that technology is used within my family on a near constant basis. And the opinions on how I ought to do that, of course, vary widely. Some advocate for kids to have unlimited access to all technology. Others warn of the health dangers of prolonged exposure to the screen. All of these opinions can be lumped into one category called “screen time”.
The truth is that our devices aren’t going to suddenly become a less integral part of our lives. So it’s my duty to find healthy, effective and useful ways to utilize screen time. Here are some insights that I feel strike a healthy balance when addressing the use of screen time in your home.
I don’t endorse unlimited screen time for kids. Too much of anything always has negative side effects. Nor do I endorse focusing on just the negative side effects of technology. Both are ineffective, unrealistic and a huge disservice to kids. Create healthy boundaries around screen time and you will help develop very important self-discipline and self-control skills in your child (and you).
Managing the “free time” of our three kids is exhausting. Monitoring the activity on iPads, iPhones, handheld games, TVs, and computers is a full time job. To help us track and manage this, we’ve used ChoreMonster. We have our kids earn time on their various screens as a reward for doing various tasks, such as spending time outdoors or being physically active.
If I view screen time as merely a tool that offers mindless distractions and meaningless entertainment, then that is all it will ever be. It’s important to realize that my devices are amazing tools of learning and creativity, limited only by my ability to use them effectively. If I find constructive and resourceful ways to use the technology, it will become an ally, not an enemy. Intentionally find and use apps that encourage and engage your kids to learn and develop life skills.
Give yourself a break.
Parenting is tough. But it’s even tougher when you constantly feel that there is a perfect way to parent. Sometimes you’re tired and will let your kids watch an hour of TV just so you can get some rest. Sometimes you’ll let your kid play a video game so you can pay bills. It’s ok. Unless it’s a consistent, daily pattern, your kids won’t explode or turn into a bag of gravy. Just because there are negative effects from too much screen time doesn’t mean there is only negative side effects.
How do you treat screen time in your home?