The Best Approach for Screen TimeNov 28, 2022
Some thoughts on screen time:
All parents know that watching endless hours of TV or playing video games on the iPad is not the best thing for young children.
We also know that putting the kid in front of a screen makes it easier to get dinner on the table, take a phone call, or just get a few minutes of peace and quiet. (In other words, sometimes kid screen time = parent sanity.)
So, what’s the best approach?
I do not pretend to have all the answers here. I am also a parent of 3 kids (who undoubtedly spend more time on screens than they “should”) and, just like you, I struggle to find the right balance.
Here’s what I do know:
- Developing brains thrive in rich, engaging environments with varied sensory stimuli (bright colors, varied textures, varied sounds)
- Developing brains require connection and engagement with other humans (conversation, eye contact, shared experiences, physical touch)
- Time spent on screens is time NOT engaging in the environment or connecting with other humans
- Adults who are stressed are more likely to engage in harsh parenting behaviors (parents need breaks; screen time is one way to get a break)
- One million neural connections are made per second in the first year of life
- Eye contact prepares the brain for social interaction
- Light from screens affects circadian rhythms and production of melatonin
- Some children watch TV before bed and sleep just fine
- Screens viewed up close (a few inches from the face) can negatively affect eyesight (it’s called “digital eye strain” or “computer vision syndrome”)
- Screens viewed from across the room (TV) are not as bad for your eyesight
- Being in nature has numerous documented benefits for physical and emotional wellbeing
- Some people live in places where going outside is not feasible due to extreme weather, safety, lack of green spaces, or other reasons
- Children learn through play; playing with toys promotes curiosity, exploration, communication skills, and interaction with peers or adults
- We live in an increasingly digital world
- Playing with electronics helps kids develop tech skills they cannot learn from analogue toys
- Reading to and with children is important for literacy and to cultivate a love of reading
- Children who are read to and whose parents engage them in conversation/talk to them know more words by age 2 than children who are not read to/talked to
- There are many wonderful educational video games that teach reading and math skills
- There are many wonderful video games that encourage creativity
- Screens can be very addictive
- Parents are overwhelmed with the seemingly ever-changing landscape of technology
If this seems like just a Very Long List of Random Facts - it is! All of these things are true. Some of these things contradict one another. Some of these things complement one another.
Another thing that is true is that our world is changing faster than we can keep up with, evolutionarily speaking.
We can hold all of these truths - and it may feel difficult to integrate them.
So what do we do with all this information???
Here is what I suggest.
Look at that list above and notice how you feel as you read each fact. If you notice your body feels more relaxed, or you feel calmer or more expansive when you read some statements, notice that. If you read other statements and notice that your body contracts or feels tense or stressed, just notice that.
Then, set an intention of moving toward the things that feel relaxing and expansive and, as much as you can, move away from them the things that make you feel stressed and makes your body contract.
For some that might mean you set an intention of playing outside for 20 or 30 minutes a day. It might mean recognizing that screentime gives you a much-needed break, so perhaps you intentionally schedule 20 to 30 minutes a day of screentime for your kids.
Perhaps you maintain exactly the screentime schedule you currently have, but switch from iPad to TV.
Perhaps you make a choice to have no electronics in bedrooms after a certain time of night.
Maybe the shift is as simple as setting an intention to make eye contact with your child at least three times a day.
Pick ONE THING and see what happens. After a week, check in with yourself and see if anything has shifted.
Then go back to this list and try it again. What feels expansive? What feels contracted? Is there a shift that would move you in the direction of a slightly better feeling about screens?
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