Why I Don’t Limit My Kids’ Screen Time

Every family is different and whatever is right for you, is the right thing. That said, if limiting screen time has become a daily battle in your household, can I make one suggestion? Give in.

hand playing with ipad

I don’t limit my {young} children’s screen time. Never have, and at this point, I likely never will.

Today, childhood looks a lot different from my 90s childhood. {I know. This is a vast understatement.} The way we live on a day-to-day basis has changed dramatically in the past forty years. Just like it did the forty before that, and on and on all the way back. But the addition of so many screens, big and small, kind of punctuates it for me.

If we wanted to watch something in the 90s? We had limited channels, programming, and fewer ways to consume television and movies. We had to agree as a family on what to watch. It was as easy as living in the same house for parents to be aware of {most of} the media their children consumed.

Do I sometimes wish I could parent in this landscape? Absolutely. But alas, I cannot and neither can you.

We have to figure out a way to navigate the new world, which includes technology  EVERYWHERE. It’s a blessing and a curse.

It’s ok to be nostalgic. But this rosy view of recent history does little to encourage looking at the positive side of all these technological advances.

Quality Counts

Have you seen children’s shows these days? I just want to take a moment to say the quality is unsurpassed. {Insert chef’s kiss}  Educational, inclusive, representative entertainment is in an abundance, on cable and public television and on every streaming platform. Even experts agree that exposure to such programming can be beneficial from age 2 onward.

mother and child read on a tablet under a tent

Just because it’s high quality doesn’t mean it should be taking over their lives, though. And for this reason, the screen time struggle is one that modern parents commiserate on from toddlerhood through teens. Here’s how we {mostly} avoid this battle in my household.

Mind My Own Screen-time

Try to be aware of your own screen-time usage around your children– especially when they are young! I love a mindless scroll- and who doesn’t?- but I aim to keep my phone use to a minimum when I’m interacting with my children. Some days, I fail at this. And I know even restrained phone use still stands out in my kids’ minds as me not being fully present with them. They are correct!

I also believe modeling is more important than rules, in many circumstances. Showing my kids that I reach for my Kindle to read or my laptop to write {or maybe a home makeover show on tv} during downtime instead of looking at my phone is beneficial to encouraging them to read or be creative at those times as well.

If You Fight, You Lose

When we first started allowing our then-toddler to watch an iPad on his own, I made a rule we have kept for years. If he fights me when I say time is up, he loses it for the rest of the day. {Yes, those times he lost it felt like punishment for both of us. IYKYK.}

It’s simple, it’s effective, and it’s not an empty threat.

I’m still in charge of their days, at this point, and if I say it’s time to play, read, swim, color, eat, bathe, sleep or more– they have to give up their tablets. The Scarcity Principle is real, and wanting what we can’t have is powerful. Strict and specific time limits can lead to power struggles or greater obsession. And to me, the whole point is teaching self-regulation around screens, which are destined to be a huge part of their lives as they grow.

child stands wearing virtual reality goggles
Technology isn’t going anywhere; self-regulation is my goal.

I am also able to watch over their shoulders whenever I feel like it, and they know I check their browsing history.

It’s “control” without a fight and it’s empowering for both of us. On that note,

Look on the Bright Side

Our kids are growing up in a different world, but today’s kids are pretty freaking awesome. They need balance and human connection, but they are benefiting from technology too.

I know it gets a really bad rap, but even watching YouTube has helped spark creativity and imagination in my children. From watching science experiments they want to recreate, art videos that inspire their own masterpieces, and even (yes!) watching others playing with toys has helped to teach my children how to play pretend. What a beautiful tool for their little minds!

Video games help with hand-eye coordination and problem solving, which can be confidence builders, among other benefits.

three young kids have screen time on tabletWe can navigate this screen-filled world together, alongside our children, and make it work for all of us. I prefer to pick my battles and limiting screen time isn’t one of them!

How do you handle screen time with your children?


 

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Mary B. is a lifelong creative, dreamer, and joy seeker. Born and raised in northern Illinois, Mary attended the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, receiving her B.F.A. in acting, then worked as a sometimes actress/model, sometimes waitress. Mary and her husband got married in Sept 2012, welcomed a son in 2014, moved to Texas from Chicago in 2016, and welcomed a daughter in 2017, completing their family. She self-publishes her musings on marriage, motherhood, and life on her blog, Accidentally Texan,. In her free time {free time--ha!} Mary loves to read, cook {and eat ;)}, work out, swim, travel, and spend time with her family. Mary believes emotional connection is the root of humanity and our collective purpose in life.

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