At 5:00 each morning, my Apple watch and my iPhone ring in tandem to wake me up. Once I actually get my butt out of bed, I ask Alexa what the weather’s like and what’s on my agenda for the day. She briefs me and then I pop in my AirPods so that I can listen to my favorite podcasts while I’m getting ready for work. This is my routine every morning.
Throughout the day, I can access my security cameras from my phone and watch Joachim and little Camille as she plays and sleeps. I can also speak to them remotely from our home assistant or through the camera system. Like most, tech is an ingrained part of my life.
Little research has actually revealed that toddlers and infants learn from watching videos and tv. The reality is that smartphones, tablets, and other tech devices aren’t going away anytime soon. Some studies have shown that overexposure to screen time can be addictive to young kids and even lead to depression. Aside from the intangible impacts of overexposure, kids can also have physical impacts as well. Spending too much time in front of a screen instead of actively moving can result in weight gain and issues with too little sleep.
While there are studies that paint the not so positive side of screen time, I am a believer in screen media as a tool; it is not inherently good or bad. Most importantly, how we use the media tools can result in a constructive effect or a detrimental one. With children, the quality of the media matters; the more interactive the better. The ultimate goal should be to combat passive screen time.
Tbh, I completely understand the momentary peace that parents get when their kids are preoccupied with whatever they are watching. As a parent of a toddler who also works two full-time jobs, trust me, I get it. Exhaustion aside, I am very invested in making sure that my child is not raised or babysat by YouTube, Netflix, and now Disney+.
Moderating Kid’s Screen Time
As with most things, moderation is key. Just as too much junk food can be harmful, the same could be argued for screen time. There are ways that you can integrate tech and screen time into your kid’s routines without overdoing it.
#1: Make Screen-time a privilege, not a given
Screen time should not be viewed as a given, but rather as something earned. Having kids to complete small chores in exchange for screen time is a lesson in itself. Not only will they feel a sense of pride, but they will have some experience understanding how to develop a work ethic for the things that they want.
#2: Set expectations and stick with them
Be realistic and fair, but above all, be consistent. Once your kids know where the line is drawn, they will certainly test it. It’s what they do- but you have to stand behind the choices that you make. It’s much harder to correct bad habits once they’ve been reinforced for years. Do it right the first time and do not waiver.
#3: Model socially healthy screen-time
It’s super easy to lower your screen time standards when you are guilty of the very thing you are asking your kid not to do. Don’t always scroll on your phone whenever the opportunity presents itself. Carve out time for your family to talk and hang-out sans-tech.
#4: Encourage other activities
There are so many moments where I am pleasantly surprised at how engaged Camille is in activities that do not involve screen-time. In an effort to limit Cami’s passive screen time, Jo and I decided to invest in many Montessori toys and science experiments that are appropriate for her age. We were cautiously optimistic about Camille enjoying her non-screen time, but homegirl really took to it! We opted to provide a lot of variety in terms of what she could do. Camille often has the opportunity to create artwork with various mediums, create music with a variety of instruments, engage in age-appropriate science experiments, and play pretend with her kitchen and costumes. It is really refreshing to see that she fully enjoys playing with non-screen stuff.
All in all, kids are kids and they will find entertainment outside of screens if given the opportunity to do so. Screens are not the devil and they are not saviors. They are tools that we chose to use. The question that should determine if we give our kids screen time is “What is my intention behind wanting to use X?” If it’s to pacify or distract a little one – maybe aim for a different form of entertainment. All-in-all, let your intention and values drive how much screen time your little ones get.