Screen Time: It’s Not What You Think

screen time

How Screen Time Can Enhance Learning, Independence, Innovation, and Connection

We see it all the time on the news and in our Facebook groups. “Screen time is bad for kids.” “No screens!” “Screen time makes kids unhealthy, lazy, and disconnected.” I have been bombarded by this message as a parent over and over for years.

In all honesty, I used to be a NO SCREEN TIME parent. We didn’t allow any screen time at all, for a long time.

Consider the following scenarios:

Firstly, I am standing in the hallway of my daughter’s school waiting to pick her up. There are 10 other parents waiting as well. I look around briefly and notice that EVERY parent is using a cell phone while waiting. These same parents then pick up their child and I hear them saying, “no screen time today! We don’t do that.”

Secondly, a parent leaves for work for the day. At their job, they are in front of a computer for 8 hours. They are working, learning, communicating, finding efficient ways to solve problems, creating products, and so much more. That same parent comes home and berates their children for wanting to watch shows, play an app on a tablet, or play games.

It’s really a double standard… and possibly childism

Adults are 100% okay with using technology to maximize their learning, connection, and leisure. Yet children are somehow not human? Not entitled to use the same tools? Kids are routinely put down for their interest in technology and using “screens” to gain information, knowledge, and enjoyment. But aren’t they just following their natural curiosity? This is childism.

Computers and screens are one of the most important technological innovations of our time. It is an amazing tool to gain information, solve problems, enhance creativity, and connect with others around the world in ways that were never before possible. Screens aren’t going anywhere. Certainly, the adults in our society would never accept moving into an anachronistic, screen free world. How are our children going to learn to use this tool if we continue to keep it from them? To hoard it to ourselves as a guilty pleasure after bedtime?

How Kids Can Use Screen Time

Kids are naturally VERY interested in technology because they are hard wired to learn. Technology is one of the best tools for learning. If we don’t allow our kids to learn to use technology safely, how are they going to gain the skills they need to be successful? Living a no-screen-time childhood has very few well-studied benefits.

Screen time can help kids innovate and create in new ways. My 4-year-old daughter has learned some basic graphic design principles such as pixels through using an app we borrowed from our local library. She creates new images every day and loves to print them. She wants to print some of her favorites and frame them for a sale to raise money for a local community group. Tell me how this is somehow evil?

Screen Addiction

I do think that screen addiction is totally a thing and can be an issue for people. However, with any addiction, the problem is the need behind the behavior rather than the screen itself. If your child is spending what you feel to be unhealthy or excessive time using technology, you might want to consider the factors driving that behavior. Is your child using screens for connection? Are they feeling overwhelmed in their environment or schedule and need a break?

My kids watch TV, use tablets, and the computer. Interestingly, 9 times out of 10 if I suggest we spend time together outdoors or in another activity, they will always put it aside. Sometimes I even simply say to them, “I think I’m going to go outside and weed the garden. I love seeing the flowers!” They always follow me to the door.

Alternatively, you can connect with your child by exploring their screen time interests. Get into their games and find out what they enjoy about it. Learn to play something with them. Explore some interests together. Watch learning channels and get into their favorite characters. You might be surprised how much connection you find.

Enhancing Learning and Connection

Kids can also learn how to solve problems and gain skills such as math and language through using technology as well. Many games require complex problem solving and language development in order to be successful. I believe that screen time can be a healthy challenge for kids.

As a postpartum doula, I often see many families get nervous about letting older children watch television or use a tablet after a new baby arrives. I used to be one of those parents. Use it as a way to bring everyone together. Let your kids show off their new game, or relax and cuddle together with your new baby and have a family movie night.

Do you allow your kids to have screen time? How does it work for your family?


Resources for considering screen time:

Living Joyfully has a great blog post about reconsidering screen time in the family.

In Defense of Screens is a great article that is a must-read about screen time.

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