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Screen time. It’s quite the hot topic nowadays. How much screen time is too much? Is there any amount that is safe? Do we cut out screen time completely and hope for the best?
As a society, we are addicted to our screens. Sitting at a red light? The driver next to you has their phone out. Waiting in a line of 4 shoppers at Target? Everyone is on Facebook and checking their messages. Going out to eat with the family? Everyone is on their own devices watching videos, texting and Snapchatting. (Is Snapchatting a word? I’m a mom in my 30’s with young kids and know absolutely nothing about Snapchat!)
There are so many unanswered questions for us as parents as we wade the muddy waters of parenthood in a digital age. To cut out screen time or not to cut out screen time? That is the question. A question we answered in our own home with a “cut it out (mostly)”.
I say mostly because while we went a “little extreme” as some of you may think, we do still allow screen time in our home, but just in a different way than before.
The Screen Time Paradox
We continually see articles and studies about the dangers of excessive screen time. The American Association of Pediatrics states on their healthy children website:
“For children younger than 18 months, use of screen media other than video-chatting should be discouraged.
Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming/apps and use them together with children, because this is how toddlers learn best. Letting children use media by themselves should be avoided.
For children older than 2 years, media limits are very appropriate. Limit screen use to no more than 1 hour or less per day of high-quality programming. Co-view or co-play with your children, and find other activities for to do together that are healthy for the body and mind (e.g., reading, teaching, talking, and playing together).”
Presently, we live in a very technological world. We have internet access wherever we go with phones, tablets, laptops, etc. Many homes have more than one television in them. Kids are getting cell phones for their 5th birthdays.
While I love some of the perks that come with technology, my husband and I started noticing subtleties in our 2 boys that had become alarming due to screen time.
What screen time was doing to our kids
In our house, we didn’t let our kids watch anything not appropriate for their ages and we had strict time limits set on their Amazon Fire Kids Tablets with FreeTime Unlimited. Our 2.5 year old and 5 year old would get on average 1-2 hours of screen time per day between tv and their tablets. It seemed fairly restrictive in my eyes, knowing many others who allow much more time than that for their kids.
Our oldest has certain special needs and was becoming very fixated on screen time. Some days, he would literally ask to watch tv or play on his tablet incessantly. I’m not kidding, the boy would ask at least 10 times an hour and then groan and whine when I said no. He would then proceed to say he was bored and all he could focus on was getting to watch tv or play on the tablet.
Little brother soon followed suit and would cry (sometimes hysterically) when I said no tablet time.
Oh. my. goodness. What happened to my children who loved the outdoors and creating elaborate scenes with blocks and trains? Screen time.
An obsession with screen time happened to them.
So what was the answer?
My husband and I talked about it and decided that for our kids, limiting screen time during the week was a must. We started our Homeschool Kindergarten year with our oldest this fall, so there is no tv or tablet time on school days.
But, there is an exception.
We do use the Usborne Internet-Linked Children’s Encyclopedia and watch a short educational video with each lesson. We spent last week learning about earthquakes and volcanoes, so we watched a Nova special about Mt. Saint Helens on Amazon Prime Video to supplement our lesson.
But other than educational videos (and the occasional Tasty video on Facebook my oldest likes to watch so he can, in his own words “learn the recipe so I can tell you how to make that for us”), we stay away from screen time during the week. On the weekends, they are allowed to watch tv and play on their tablets periodically through the day, though we don’t allow them to just sit in front of the tablet all day and do nothing else.
Improvements we have seen after limiting screen time
That first week was a doozy, I’m not going to lie. There was a lot of crying and pushback on mom through the day about how boring it was and how they just “needed” to watch tv.
But after that first week, there was a clear and vast improvement. Saturday rolled around and it was probably 3pm before our 5 year old asked if he could play on his tablet.
They went in their room and set up an elaborate train track with a town and farm and large city. Then played with it for hours.
I’m happy we limited screen time in our home
In the end, I don’t regret making the change one bit. Instead of sitting on the couch watching bright colors and flashing lights on their tablets with cutesy little songs that, quite frankly, irritate mommy to no end, they are being creative.
They get the watercolors out and paint pictures for family. Paper airplanes soar through the school room. Books are being pulled off the shelf and “read” to each other.
Going as extreme as we have done may not work for your family. But I do want you to consider what is happening with your children and screen time. If it’s becoming an obsession, it might be time to re-evaluate.