I know this will ruffle some feathers. I know that it isn’t easy going against the grain. But we decided last year to limit the amount of time our children spend on screens. I’ll start by writing about why we made this decision to limit screen time. Then I’ll write a separate post about how we achieved this. Lastly, I’ll provide tips on what to have your children do instead. I know it seems scary, but I promise, once you quit screens, you (or your children) will never look back!
Why We Limit Screen Time For Our Kids
Last year, the World Health Organization changed their guidelines/recommendations on screen time. They now recommend, “for 1-year-olds, sedentary screen time (such as watching TV or videos, playing computer games) is not recommended. For those aged 2 years, sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour; less is better. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged” (source). One hour a day of sedentary screen time is also the recommendation for 3-4 year olds.
I know that one hour a day seems manageable but when you add up TV, time on the iPad, time on the tablet, and using the phone when our at the grocery store to keep a toddler from having a meltdown, it adds up!
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. I’m in no way accusing you of being a bad parent. As always, I’m sharing our experience, beliefs, and preferences for how we raise our children. I try to research everything we implement in depth, but I’m not a pediatrician nor am I a child development expert. (I do however, have a Master’s degree in early childhood development) so I have a little to offer here! But mostly, I’m speaking out my own experience as a mom of two kids.
01. Screen time can be isolating. We want to work on fostering connection.
I honestly feel isolated myself when I look at my phone. I remember asking my husband if we can turn our phones off before bed and just go to bed together instead of both staring at our screens. This was back in our newly-married, pre-kids days. It felt lonely. It felt isolating. Our children feel the same way. Parents get distracted by screens and then they stop paying attention to their children. Or they only offer half-attention. The same thing goes for our children when they use screens. They cannot fully focus on something if they’re distracted. If I really want to connect with my children, I have to put away the screen, and engage in a conversation or play a game. It takes work to foster a connection. But it’s so worth it.
(Quick disclaimer: playing a video game with your child every once in awhile is absolutely a form of connection. Use your best judgement here. Remember moderation is important, and if it isn’t an isolating activity, but instead an opportunity for bonding. Take it!)
02. Kids need to learn how to be “bored”.
I’m extremely passionate about this. Remember going out to eat with your family in the 90’s? It was pretty boring while you had to sit and wait for food. During this time, I remember having meaningful conversations with my grandfather, playing Tic-Tac-Toe with my sister, and trying to learn to read by looking at the menu. I also did a lot of observing as a child. I’d watch other families or children. It truly is a skill to learn how to entertain yourself when you’re bored. I don’t want my children becoming adults without this skill. Again. It’s so hard. I understand! I can barely sit in a dark room to nurse my toddler without trying to pick up my phone. However, after repetition and training, I’m now able to sit and just exist. Just think. Just breathe… without having to look at my phone. Or I read a book. (So many moms asked how I’ve been reading so much… the answer? I don’t look at my phone, and look at a book instead!)
It’s all about training. If you can train yourself to do it, you can train your kids to do it too!
03. Children need to learn to manage their emotions without a distraction.
As an advocate for positive parenting, I am a huge proponent of letting kids “be” in their feelings. If my four-year-old woke up on the wrong side of the bed and simply wants to cry all morning, no matter what I do to help her feel better, I let her. She needs to express those feelings. She may not have the language or emotional intelligence to tell me how she feels. She herself may not even understand how she’s feeling… but it’s something I have to let her sit in. I offer a shoulder to cry on. I offer a hug. I don’t shame her for crying. I don’t shame her for being cheerful 24/7. (Are you cheerful 24/7? Me neither. Ha!)
I don’t offer her her favorite show or a game on the tablet either. These tactics to distract her from the emotions she’s feeling will only teach her to not confront those feelings she had. It will teach her to cover up, or hide how she’s feeling. I want her to learn how to feel things and communicate through what she’s frustrated/sad/upset about at a young age. This means not offering a distraction during these difficult times! Especially not a screen.
04. I’d rather my children pick up a book instead.
If I’m being honest, I’d rather have my children reading all the time if they’re going to be immersed in something. Now I know that isn’t possible for a 2-year-old, but it’s something to work towards. I want to teach my children to have a sustained attention span so that they do enjoy reading when they get older.
The best way to ensure this? Lead by example. Last year, instead of scrolling my phone between mealtimes and playtimes while my girls were occupied, I picked up a book. I did this all year and ended up reading a pretty hefty list of books! I get to do something for myself (reading) and they get to see me… reading! Leading by example! It’s a win-win.
I know it’s hard to fathom what life is like without screens until you’ve actually done it. But I promise it’s possible! In my next post, I’ll share how we cut screen time, and some helpful ideas on what to have your children do instead!
Interested in learning more about how to use technology in your home? I really loved this book: The Tech-Wise Family.
I hope this post about why we limit screen time for our kids was helpful to you! Thank you so much for reading!