Every single time I stumble across an article or a post relating to “screen time” and kids, I devour it. First off, I want confirmation (that I rarely get, because everyone must be lying) that I’m not the only parent whose kids get waaaay more than the token thirty-minutes of approved screen time on any given day. It’s not constant, but yeah, I’ve been known to hand over my phone or a tablet so I can focus for an entire 45 minutes. Hell, even an hour. Hands up if you’ve been there.
Second, I admit it, I want to hear the latest recommendations – even if I’m just going to shake my head at the absurdity. I have my doubts that some of these “experts” spend much time with kids at all.
But I tacitly approve of the stories that acknowledge that technology is part of our kids’ lives and offer advice to moderate its use without getting too crazy. Last year, both my second grader and my kindergartener had ten minutes of screen time four nights a week purely for homework’s sake, on math and reading websites. There’s an educational aspect to this whole argument that just can’t be denied.
Third, I’m waiting for a story that finally acknowledges something every single parent knows all too well – technology makes us all hypocrites. Right?
I work on my laptop. I check email on my phone. I send and respond to text messages, browse Instagram, check Facebook, catch up on my feminist news (shout out to Jezebel!) and snap pictures of my cute kids being cute – all from the palm of my hand.
It’s how I work and how I connect with far-flung family and friends I see far too rarely. Sometimes, it’s how I unwind and get inspired. It’s how I get stuff done – and I know I’m not alone.
Technology is weird and wonderful and all-too intrusive. I have no idea how much screen time I personally have in a day, but it’s a lot more than thirty minutes. Another show of hands – who’s with me?
I say it to my kids all the time – “Phones and tablets away now, that’s enough screen time! Go find something else to do.” And more than half the time, I turn back to my laptop so I can finish a post or an email. I cringe inside a bit, but I still do it.
The thing is, my kids are catching on. They’re fully aware of the double standard, even if it’s taken them a while to articulate it. And that’s a good thing, because it’s forcing me to set the right example.
I hate that old adage, do as I say, not as I do, but it so perfectly sums up this little predicament. I’m ashamed to be a hypocrite when it comes to technology. So I’m not going to be one anymore.
In a roundabout way over the last year or so, we established a few family rules that apply across the board, and we all stick to them without too much difficulty. We have a “no devices” rule at the table when we eat. We don’t turn the television on in the mornings before school.
No one has a TV in a bedroom, and I made a deal with my kids – no phones/tablets/computers in bed either. That one is a doozy. I end up marooned on the couch working into the wee hours while everyone is snoozing upstairs. But a deal is a deal.
Now, this notion of being present is really resonating with me. I don’t want to be the mom at the park with her nose stuck in her phone. I don’t want my kids to ever feel like they have to compete with an inanimate object for my attention. I don’t want them to grow up with no imagination.
I want them to be comfortable with technology and to recognize – hang on, I’m about to quote Spiderman – that “with great power comes great responsibility.” Technology can be a powerful thing, and that’s not something to take lightly.
I want my kids to enjoy the best of technology and not get sucked into the worst. And I think that starts with me.
My husband is on board, and I’m crossing my fingers that our kids will just follow our examples mostly by default. So no big announcements, no dramatic productions – we’re just being more mindful of the distractions our phones and tablets and laptops inherently present.
And then we’re acting on it.
We’re putting all that stuff away much more often and inviting the kids to do the same. I’m thankful that an offer to walk over to the cow pasture or kick around the soccer ball is still met with instant device abandonment. And I’m hopeful that by starting now, we’re setting the right example going forward.
Hands up – and phones down – if you’re with me.
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