To Screen or Not To Screen

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Hi. My name is Michele, and I am addicted to social media, BRAVO, and Thursday night television. My iPhone is never out of arm’s reach, and I might self implode if I cannot access the internet or text my friends. I have a problem. I know I do, and this is why I limit my kids’ interactions with screens.

To Screen or Not To Screen :: One Mom's View on Screen Time | Houston Moms Blog

Penelope is 8, and for Hanukkah she “finally” received her own tablet. We bought her a Samsung Galaxy Tab E Lite.  She was “the very last” one of her friends to receive her own screen. I did not even want to get her this for Hanukkah, but I caved. Before receiving this coveted present, Penelope used our iPad when she wanted to play on a tablet. She maybe used it on the weekends for 20-30 minutes max per day. The most prolonged time she was allowed was when we are flying – all bets are off when you put kids on a flight. Penelope was/is limited on her television and movie exposure too. She has one childhood, and I am going to preserve hers as much as possible.

There are too many shows that claim to be appropriate for an 8-year-old; however, they discuss topics that my daughter has no interest in or knows nothing about, and I would like to keep it that way. PG-13 movies are off limits for Penelope, and I don’t care one bit that all her friends saw the movie. The answer in this house is no. Penelope is allowed one show during the school day, and that’s even if time allows. Between homework and after school activities, she is left with limited time. In that time she must decided if she wants to play outside with her friends or watch a show, and most of the time the choice is an easy one — her friends. I do believe all the years leading up to this have shaped her and allowed her to make this choice.

Limiting screens did not back fire on us. We never use{d} our phones or tablets when we are/were out to dinner. She can/could color, play I spy, or TALK to us. Like any child, Penelope loves her tablet and loves TV, but she has a desire to PLAY OUTSIDE and BE with people.  I know we are more strict than all her friends’ parents. Maybe I am naive; maybe I am living in another world. But for now it is working.

Pandora is only 5. Her screen time is pretty much limited to the television. Every now and then she will play on our old iPad. My biggest concern for Pandora is making sure she knows her ABCs as well as she knows the pups from Paw Patrol. Like her sister, she does not use screens when we are out for meals, and she may also color, play I spy, or TALK to us. It is so important to me that both girls learn HOW to socialize. There are a few apps on the iPad that are beneficial for this age, but for the most part she is tablet-less.

I know there are many wonderful educational apps and websites. I know that my daughters can learn their math facts on their tablet, but flashcards still work for us. I know there is an app that can teach them their letters, how to read, and even how to write, but reading books aloud and putting a pencil in their hands is best for us.

I know that many of Penelope’s friends FaceTime, text, and play games such as Minecraft, but she does not. Penelope gets frustrated at times, as any child would, but our rules are our rules. And when those times come around, I remind her of this… I know that our rules are strict. I also know my children are social and are hitting developmental milestones either on time or early because they get outside, play, and interact with the world.

I know there are many studies urging us, parents, to limit screen time because it can cause issues with children who have ADHD. There have also been studies discussing the negative impacts of screen time, including behavioral changes and sleep disruption.  Screen time and/or social media can be correlated to anger management problems, isolation, self-esteem issues, and let’s not forget the thing that scares me the most – pedophiles.

I remember being told my girls will be behind their peers in school because I have limited their screen time. This is not the case. This year alone, without any issue, Penelope has created an iMovie about weather and is presently completing her research project at school using the Storykit App. Her ability to use these apps appropriately and successfully while at school has not been an issue in the least. Her teacher explained how they work, and she completed the assignment.

My girls are not hurting because I limit their screen time. They are not ostracized by friends. They are not unhappy.

I know we live in a world that is run by technology. I know sooner rather than later, I will have to relinquish some control. However, today, at ages 8 and 5, I do not.

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Michele is a native Houstonian and loves everything Texas, including the Longhorns. She and her husband were married in January 2002 and are parents to the most wonderful girls, Penelope {August 2008} and Pandora {August 2011}. A former educator, Michele is passionate about education and student learning. She spends most of her days volunteering at her daughters' schools and tutoring neighborhood children in reading. Michele loves her big family and enjoys traveling to see all her relatives as well as being the fun aunt to her nieces and nephews. Her daily goal is to laugh each day and enjoy the moments. Becoming a mom was the greatest gift for Michele, and she treasures it all, even the tantrums. You can read more about Michele, her life, and her parenting adventures on her personal blog The Adventures of Tomboys in Tiaras.

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