I admit, I feel a little defensive about my son's screen time. Letting your child play online, iPad, iPhone, and iDunnowhatelse electronic games and videos these days is up there with letting them eat sugar and food dyes. It's one of the great eeeeevillllls of parenting. I see parents handing their kids screens big and small all the time, and yet, we all claim to have "limits" and we always have a perfectly good excuse for allowing it just this once.
What if we just relaxed and stopped treating screen time like a poison we reluctantly dole out to our kids? What if there were evidence that it's not even as bad as we've been led to believe? What if screen time maybe, possibly, shockingly, teaches our kids something?
An article in the Atlantic, "The Touch Screen Generation," explores these questions. Instead harping "Screen time bad! Bad mommy, bad bad!" like a cave person banging rocks together, it digs into how interactive games and media are TOTALLY DIFFERENT from the screen time we knew as kids.
Speaking of which, I don't know what kind of childhood you had, but I seem to recall an awful lot of time sitting in front of cartoons, drooling on myself. I still managed to play outside, eventually graduate from college, and grow up to be a productive member of society. I've stopped drooling on myself, too.
But that was then. Now, thanks to the American Academy of Pediatrics, we are discouraged from allowing our small children, especially those under the age of two, any screen time. But there's Scooby Doo screen time, and then there's Blue's Clues and Toca's Tea Party screen time. And doctors don't seem to be quite up to speed on the newest interactive games and apps.
I firmly believe there is nearly irreplaceable value to playing with your toddler. But I was surprised to find out how much even two-year-olds learn from the right interactive app -- and how close that learning is to the learning they get from real-life experiences. Cognitive skills, social skills, even expanding their imagination. All that good stuff we want them to do -- there's an app for that. And you really can't paint all screen time with one value. Some apps are amazing, others are a total waste of your kids brain cells.
So what it comes down to is this: You don't have to feel guilty about screen time. Find QUALITY apps and games for your kids that you know they'll enjoy. PAY ATTENTION to how they play those games, and notice if they show signs of addiction. Set reasonable limits that make sense for your kid. Screen time isn't a one-size-fits-all proposition. Of course, when I put it this way, doing screen time "right" almost sounds like a lot of work! But then, that's parenting. That's what we signed up for.
How do you decide how much -- if any -- screen time your kids get?
Image via Scott & Elaine van der Chijs/Flickr
Going to baseball games
Riding bike rides in the nice weather
Playing outside after work/school
Going for walks outside