The screentime tug-of-war is, I’m sure, a very very common sport in households today. Technology offers us ever more brilliant and enthralling ways to entertain and educate ourselves, and the desire for knowledge is a good thing, right? And yet, and yet, many parents harbour great anxiety about the slippery slope of screen time.*
Steve Almond has written a great piece on this for the New York Times: My Kids Are Obsessed With Technology, And It’s All My Fault. What I like about this article is that he admits that he fell into the same trap as a kid, albeit with tv instead of an iPad. It’s important to remember that we can’t separate our own involvement with screens from our kids’ use of them. Tapping incessantly on our smartphones while ordering our kids to shut their computers off is just not going to work. The problem of valuing flash and velocity over real-time reality is something we are going to have to work on together, parent and child.
Similarly we can’t prevent our children from choosing at least few time-sinkholes of dubious educational value… just as we chose to watch endless bad cartoons on Saturday mornings way back when. As with everything, the secret is balance.
Unfortunately there is no real short-cut for parents here. We have to put in the time to learn about everything that they are using – social media, apps, games – so that we properly know when to step in and where to draw the line.
Fortunately Commonsense Media provides really useful information on all kinds of technology and its appropriateness for children. For example here’s a recent post they did about video games: 10 Most Violent Video Games (and 10+ Alternatives). Not only do they give you the lowdown on the most awful games, but they have suggestions for less violent alternatives.
Even though we may decide to limit screentime, it’s also important not to become too unhinged over the issue. Screens are largely unavoidable in today’s environment; finding the middle ground requires sanity, empathy and reason. There are more than enough internet ‘wits’ without these qualities – most commonly without children themselves – who seem to be buried in the past, posting endlessly that “all kids today are useless” and “screens are making everyone stupid”. (Along with musings of the “parents these days are all idiots” and “no one is as clear-headed as me” ilk.)
Don’t let them get to you. We are all living in the modern world with modern problems that change with every passing day. We are all capable of making whatever rules work for our child and our families. We do everyone in our family a favour simply by remaining reasonable, respecting each other and listening to all points of view. We can try out strategies and revise them as we go. A family is a constantly changing organism, and we’ve just got to keep a sensible head on our shoulders and do our best.
* And many do not. (see related articles below)
- 59% of Parents Don’t Worry If Their Kids Stare At Screens All Day (businessinsider.com)
- U.S. parents not worried about kids’ tech use (cnn.com)