You’ve heard all the buzz about how tablets are destroying our kids‘ fine and gross motor skills, and how kids have no play skills anymore and everyone is a zombie staring at a screen all the time. Well. Maybe it’s not that bad. But screens are for sure not very good for your children.
I’ve heard a few different ways parents are limiting screen time for their children. I’ve seen chore charts that give a certain amount of screen time as a reward for each chore. I don’t love that, as it presents screen time as the ultimate goal of downtime. ( I could just be bitter that I don’t have the time or mental energy for it.) Plus, the general rule for resilient parenting is that you don’t get rewarded for chores; chores are a part of being in a family.
Also, I don’t know about you, but it’s spring break here. I am at home with my kids all week, so I’ve had a chance to practise limiting screen time (and practise not losing my cool– so far, it’s not going super-great). I am no expert at this stuff, but here are some strategies that have (sort of) worked for me:
1. Just Turn That Shit Off
Don’t worry about having an elegant reason for turning ’em off. Just say, “TV’s going off! Go play!” Then go away from your children so you don’t hear the whining. If it’s the TV, take the remote with you, or if it’s a tablet, hide it under your vibrators.
2. Be In Control Of The Screens
It sort of follows from the first one; you’ll have more success with limiting screen times if you are in charge of the screens. Don’t let your children feel ownership for their tablets (a la, “You can’t take away my tablet! Grandma gave it to me!” or whatever). You are the grownup. You are in charge of the screens. Children are dumb and bad at knowing what’s best for themselves, so you’ve gotta step in once and a while. Other things, like how much they eat and how they problem-solve, they can figure out themselves. Screens are definitely a battle you want to fight.
3. Limit Your Screen Time
Kids do what they see, so if you are clicking constantly, that’s what the kiddos will model themselves after. Turn off your screens and do a craft with your kids. (Or heck, just do a craft by yourself!) Or do whatever. A big part of our conversation around kids and screens involves parents and screens.
4. Boot Them Outside
Another way to avoid hearing the whining is to boot them outside for a period of time. It also gets them dirty and busy for a while. Playing outside is important for children for many, many reasons, and your backyard or nearby park is as good as anywhere. You don’t have to plan anything special; just boot ’em out, and let ’em get dirty.
5. Or Let Them Have Screen Time, And Don’t Worry About It
As Marie Antoinette famously said, “Bitches gotta get shit done, so let them stare at screens every so often.” So there you go. If your kids are on a screen and you’re okay with it, let ’em be. If you’ve got a timer, give ’em a set amount of time, or just don’t. Then, when you’re ready to battle, skip back to #1.
6. You Got This
I get that I am really no longer giving any advice, just writing random words. I think the key take-away is to decide what kind of balance you want your kids to have– how much outdoor time, how much crafting time, how much reading time, how much screen time, and how much are you willing to fight them about it? You don’t need to be your kids’ amusement; you don’t need to feel responsible for your kids’ entertainment. You can feel free to just unplug and force them to deal with it. This can be a wonderful opportunity for your kiddos to develop resilience. Boredom is good for kids. You have our official Post-Rebellion Parenting permission to let your kids sort their shit out themselves. You will always be their soft place to land, no doubt, and you always have their back. Part of that is setting healthy limits for them, and not caving when they start to whine. They can handle it. And so can you.
This is all part of a much larger conversation about how we can help our children grow up into healthy and resilient adults, and how screens and the Internet affects the minds of growing children. There are some really amazing benefits to social media and to the world wide web, and now we just gotta figure out how to avoid some of the negative effects of screens. We’re all discovering this new world together.
In the meantime, your primary job is to boot them off the screens and just get them to play and read and do crafts. Here is a really wonderful discussion about kids’ health and screen time. The outside max amount ever recommended is 4 hours per day for children, so keep that in mind. Also, remember that you don’t have to be perfect as a parent, and guilt over perceived shortcomings doesn’t make you a better one. Repeat after me: I am a loving parent. I am doing my best. I can do this.
Yes, you can.