Screen time is a hot topic with loads of opinions, research, and ideas. For me it as been a long developing journey. I’ll spare the details of how we got to where we are and tell you where we are at right now with just a teeny tiny bit of background.
For the longest time the kids watched zero TV. But we don’t live in a bubble and eventually Emily discovered its existence in the world. She would watch shows occasionally. A little bit opened the floodgates and she would ask a couple times a week. I became the arbitrary gatekeeper of the TV, a position that brought lots of stress and anxiety. If it were up to me I would say “No” always. I don’t like listening to or watching kids TV and it always felt like more work that it was worth to set up. The side effects weren’t that great either.
However, we don’t want to forbid technology but rather teach proper usage and boundaries. I don’t feel like we have loads of time to schedule TV in though so saying she could watch one show a day was really stressing me out. It felt like too much for our family.
We ended up having a family council a few months ago that centered on when we would watch TV. Andrew and I did a lot of thinking and discussing what we felt good about before we opened it up to the kids in the form of a discussion. The final decision:
On Friday afternoon after we’ve picked up the house so it is clean, the kids can watch a show while I make pizza BY MYSELF. Win-win-win all around! The house is clean(er), the kids get to watch a show, and I get one dinner prep session in quiet.
What’s amazing is now that we made the decision of when we are okay with watching TV, the kids don’t ask anymore. They know, and we all look forward to, Friday show and pizza night. I’m no longer having to decide every time they ask whether it is okay or a good time. No more stress and anxiety! The sad thing is they really don’t need it. I’m interrupting them deep in play almost every time to let them know it is time for me to make dinner so they can watch a show.
As far as the rest of our interactions with screens:
We spend a little more than an hour FaceTiming our families every Sunday. The kids are very much part of that and I’m grateful for how technology is keeping family relationships strong despite how far apart we live.
I’ve set pretty strict boundaries around my own time with the screen. It’s been incredibly liberating actually. I basically never use the computer when the kids are awake, except for a few minutes here or there. The iPad is also tucked away during the day, pulling it out during rest and read time after I’ve read a book and had a quick power nap if the kids are still occupied/sleeping. I wear a watch so I don’t have to look at my phone to check the time.
When I do use my iPad or the computer, I verbally state what I’m doing to the kids. “I’m looking up the books that are on hold at the library.” “I need to print something for my lesson.” “I’m looking up the sales this week at the store.” This keeps me focused from getting distracted and lost in the virtual world, and it takes the mystery of the technology away from the kids.
The bottom line is we really appreciate technology for the tool that it is. We are just working really hard to keep it from becoming a distraction that inhibits our family relationships or from missing out on the real joys in life.