Screen time or no screen time?
Is it unhealthy for kids?
I was of the generation where we experienced more time outside than we did indoors. Was there limits on screen time then? You could say yes, but there really wasn’t. Not like it is now anyways. Our parents didn’t say, “Only 30 minutes of TV a day.”
They just pushed us outside and said if you come in then you can do housework.
Of course, we stayed far away from the house for as long as we possibly could. This generation, it’s different. You don’t see kids out on the streets anymore, riding their bikes or having block-wise baseball games. Part of that is due to the decrease in security we, as parents, feel when our kids are out and about. Part of that is because we’re so busy, that sometimes we just need a break.
So, is there a need for screen time limits?
Go to any parents group, and this question will cause an uproar. Like anything else, you will find parents on both sides of the fence. But, let’s look at the facts.
In today’s age, the concept of screen time is almost an outdated concept. Everything we do, is online. Kids have tablets at school instead of books. We write papers online instead of with paper and pencil. Games are in their hands or on another device.
If we break it down, we can make it into 2 different categories - foundational & entertainment.
This is the foundation of everything online. Educational shows, Google docs, Canva, Adobe… basically those tools that we’ve come to utilize to do other things.
Even Google search could be considered foundational. Consider it this generations Encyclopedia… I, for one, am glad to not have those anymore.
By foundational, I don’t mean literally the ‘foundation’ of the internet, just that they are items we use to get something done. Not just everyday use, because then social media would fit in, and that definitely is not a foundational tool.
Should you have screen time limitations on this type of aspect? You’re kid wants to be an author when they grow up and spend hours researching and writing their latest creation. Or they want to be a weatherman and have become intrigued in all things weather related, so they use the internet for this.
This is the type that you should not limit. Give them the freedom to explore and create, because it will help them be better as they grow.
Now, we’re getting into murky waters. This is really where the outdated concept of ‘screen time’ lives, and it’s mostly surrounding video games. Let’s focus on that aspect a bit.
Clinical psychologist Kelli Dunlap says, “Research has shown again and again and again, time spent playing video games is not predictive of mental health outcomes”.
The focus here being on the time spent playing these games. The reasoning behind this, games have evolved into tools. Many games require team work skills, beginner engineering skills, imagination and more.
Even schools are taking games like Minecraft and utilizing them in the curriculum because of the skills they can use.
Not all games have educational purposes of course. And even the ones that do have educational purposes could have harmful pieces to them.
But, how do I get my kid off?
You can have too much of anything right? Even if your kid is an avid reader, they need to take breaks and stretch or consume other material. Priortizing these other activities are important, if we can get our kids on the same page.
Habits come and go, but if they start out as an everyday function to their life, they will be more likely to continue it.
If you need a break, absolutely use the tools you have to help you with that. Just don’t use it all the time.
Take it away to go make cookies, draw or even play at the park. Show them that they can have just as much fun outside as they can have from that little device in their hands.
Model Good Behavior
Alright parents, get off your phone. Seriously though. The more our littles see us on our phones, computers, etc. they more they think that is natural.
Come home from work after a long day and immediately start the doom of hours long scrolling in TikTok or Instagram. Guess what they see…. Simply you on a device.
Get off and start planning other things to do with them. If you need that 20 min, set a timer and then follow through. Even if it’s hard, because it’s become your habit, show them you can break it.
Go for a walk with them, play with the dogs outside, break out a boardgame. Absolutely anything, except for an electronic device.
DON’T ALLOW PHONES AT THE TABLE. Honestly, I don’t know why this isn’t more of a standard practice. Phones/devices at the table is the worst idea ever. The table is a great place to have conversations and check in with each other. Plus, it’s only a limited time.
This isn’t just for the kids, this is you modeling great behavior. Your teams, friends, or whomever can all wait until dinner is done.
Game WITH them
Not everyone is a gamer, I know that. You can still enjoy some quality time with those kiddos while trying to play.
I am not, and will never be a gamer… I like books lol. When my kids wanted to play, I would still jump on there and then listen to them roast me about how bad I was. It was absolutely hilarious.
Gaming with them helps you to see what they are doing and who they are talking to. It’s a good time to gauge a lot of aspects of your kiddos life.
If I don’t limit screen time, how do I know they are okay?
Such an important question. My obvious answer is, you know your kid. Unfortunately, sometimes our kiddos are smarter than we are, and they learn to hide a lot. Here’s some great ways to know if they’re spending a little too much time on their screens:
All games take money these days. You want something special, break out the pocketbook. Without special restrictions, your kid could go wild purchasing items.
With the restrictions in place though, you can still start to spot the issue that comes with this. They will continuously talk about how they need more money to spend in order to get the one thing they want. They won’t want to work for it, they will want to just buy it. If your kiddo is obsessing over that, then maybe it’s time to take a little break.
Anxiety over gaming
Kids show anxiety in a multitude of ways. This anxiety could be about getting on or because you asked them to get off.
When they are anxious about getting online, it’s a good time to check in with them and their accounts. Helicopter mom or not, get on that account. Most kids are anxious because they are being bullied or they have reached someone that they shouldn’t have.
It’s hard for our kiddos to come clean to us, especially if they know that they broke rules. Come at this from the angle of empathy, and you’ll get more answers directly from them. Discuss it from anger, and you’ll have to get the answers yourself. Either, it’s a good time for a break.
Anxiety about getting off, those videos you’ve seen. Kids will throw fits in an effort to get what they want… more time. The first time you see this, it’s time to take a break. It means that they are way too invested in what they are doing and it is not healthy to be that invested in anything.
Can’t quite figure out why the kiddo who used to have so much energy is suddenly falling asleep all throughout the day? The reason, most likely, is that screen. Whether it’s TV, talking to friends or gaming, they are staying up way too late.
Definitely a good time to take a break and re-evaluate the rules around when they can play and when they can’t.
There will never be an exact answer as to what is too much or too little when it comes to screen time. All of our families and kiddos are built different and thus they have different tolerance levels.
One thing you can count on though, is that too much of anything isn’t good.
Want to make sure that you’ve got all the protections you need to help your kiddo succeed in this technological age? Download our checklist here!