If you asked my kids they would probably tell you yes. But as a parent I have, and am, learning that my kids do not always know what is best for them (exhibit A: the vegetable). We have mighty battles in our house over the appropriate amount of screen time. Imagine Thor versus Hulk if comic book imagery means anything to you. In this age, anything with a screen is addictive to them. I have had my 5 year old tell me he “just cannot stop thinking about Pokemon.” It made me want to cry a little to hear his young mind so preoccupied with a video game.
How do we solve this problem of screen obsession? Our family decided giving up screens entirely was not how we wanted to proceed. So first off, we put some clear and written boundaries around the total time allowed as well as appropriate times and places to use screens. Then my husband and I enforce those boundaries consistently. We only break those rules when we can see a situation where a person or relationship needs to be more important than the boundary. Love first, rules second. Sometimes this is a sick kid who cannot go out side and is maybe even too tired to play with toys. Here are some of our house rules around screens.
- No screens at the dinner table.
- One hour of screens before lunch and one hour after lunch (total including iPads, videos, TV, games.) There is no rollover screen time from morning to afternoon.
- Fighting over screens means loosing screens.
- No screens on vacation (only during transit).
- No screens on school mornings.
- No screens when we have friends visiting.
Secondly, we find activities to do instead of screens. This one has taken me a while to warm up to because it is so much work on my part. I have to admit I struggle finding the energy but the payout is very worth it. My husband bought a trampoline. I know plenty of ER professionals who would never approve but it has been a God-send in providing exercise and activity to my two rambunctious boys. I have planned scavenger hunts, written stories with them, we do summer bucket lists, even trips to the grocery store are good when I ask them to be ninjas and get items for me without being seen. While it is sort of related to screens, we have filmed two movies with another in production (I even learned how to do green screen special affects). Costuming and story boarding are so fun and creative. We talk for hours about how to accomplish our story. This also often involves the neighborhood kids and we all share in watching when it is done, an acceptable time for screens.
One of my favorite anti-screen techniques is the no-screens-on-vacation. I want my children to remember learning and having fun with friends and family. I prioritize learning, growing and relating when choosing activities for my family. Vacations where we get to explore and do fun things together are our favorites. We allow tablets or airplane screens during transit times due to the need to keep our little balls of energy still for a significant period of time. But, once we arrive at our destination the screens are put away. We did not just fly 1000s of miles to do what we could do at home (yes that is said a few times with some emotion behind it). Prior to kids I was less deliberate about my travel planning but now I put in more time and effort. I know as a parent time and energy are scarce resources but kids give you less margin for errors and delays. The pay out here is big. Whether it is skiing in Banff or camping a few hours down the road I know my kids have some awesome memories and lessons that will last a life time.
If you would like help planning and implementing a vacation that will rival even the most thrilling video games, contact me here.