Screens have their place...they do...& I'm not one to guilt anyone or throw shade, because I know that parenting is damn hard! We give ourselves enough of a hard time & we don't need any other keyboard warriors to contend with as we seek to read more, learn more & do the best we can do...no doubt, it's what led you to this blog post; you're trying. I get it. Me too.
I know that things change over time & parenting techniques, along with everything else, evolve. I can't help but look back on the relative freedom of being an 80's/90's kid with a huge dose of nostalgia & lust. There were no screens to contend with, no rules that needed to be made or daily limits that needed to be set, no seemingly unrealistic expectations of being aware of EVERYTHING that your child consumes from their device. Just lots of socialising & PLAY!
Little 90's me with my big brother just being screen free kids...as were the times
I do look at the screen with a critical eye when it comes to my kids.
It ZAPS them!
It's like it drains them of their energy & tolerance at a rapid rate.
Think of the end of screen time meltdown. Do you know what I'm talking about? Sometimes it feels like taking the drug away from the drug addict. There's a come down & it's bizarre.
See, the thing is, while there is a huge amount of cognitive stimulation happening, & maybe a little socialising there is very little sensory input taking place.
The device is hard, rigid, smooth, it doesn't require much manipulation or movement to make it work. There is one, repetitive tap with the index finger. A still, stagnant body. The peripheral world is cut off.
Then consider playing 'shops'.
Yesterday I watched our two girls play with a new kids kitchen set up that we bought for the cafe.
I came home from work & our lounge room had been transformed into 'Lavender Gardens Delivery'
I was handed one of the three handmade phones & instructed to push the Lavender Gardens Delivery app to place my order.
I ordered a soy latte & a glass of tap water, followed by a later delivery of a cake
The order was processed & prepared (complete with latte art on my coffee!) before being packaged into the homemade delivery backpack & the sweet delivery bike rider provided a very friendly & efficient service, delivering the coffee straight to my desk!
In this scene there is social engagement - verbal & non verbal. Following of social norms. Using a 'phone manner', listening, processing, writing, reading.
Sensory integration - visual tracking; touch & manipulation of malleable products like play dough & slime to create cafe items, squishing, squeezing, rolling, pinching; auditory processing; vestibular & proprioception input as the delivery bike was maneuvered around the furniture, reaching, crouching, squashing; & interception as the kids navigated emotions in having to work together & handle opposing ideas.
There is self regulation, problem solving & inquiry skills, motor skills, self expression & creative development.
...& after all of this. The kids were calm. They had a sense of fulfillment. They woke up this morning & planned to get back into their kitchen today to play it all over again!
The cafe & phone with the lavender garden app
Obviously this kind of play is beneficial for the whole family.
Calmer kids = a calmer home
After the slide into a poor balance of screen time in our house & contending with an overwhelming amount of daily meltdowns, we knew we needed to make some change to find a better balance.
These days, thing are pretty good. Never 'perfect' (because is that even a thing??!) but much, much better than where we were.
We decided to have a family discussion about screen time & some of our other family rules that were becoming a daily battle & allow the kids an opportunity to have their say.
We came up with a short list of the things that seemed to be a daily battle & set some guidelines around them.
We discussed bedtime, school day mornings, screen time & chores. As a family, with equal input, we talked about how we would like each of these areas to look, what the guidelines should be & what the repercussions should be if the guidelines aren't followed.
The kids really enjoyed being a part of the discussion & rule making process. They had really valuable input & were very considerate in setting the boundaries & repercussions. We negotiated & discussed & in the end, came up with a simple set of house rules that sits on our fridge door.
Our screen time rules are now - 1 hour on school days (no screen on days with after school activities)
2 hours on weekends & school holidays, but only after getting ready for the day & tidying their bedrooms
There have been occasions where we have had to revisit & re-negotiate the rules. Sometimes things don't work how you initially thought & that is a great lesson in itself for the kids; it's ok to revisit & rethink.
We have since had annotation to our screen time rules: YouTube on the TV is counted as screen time #IYKYK
We have been running with these rules & this structure for about 6 months now, maybe more.
It was a little difficult at first, with lots of "I'mmmm BOOOORRRRED" coming from the kids, but now they have become so good at finding things to do. So much better at playing again.
The kids set their own timers on their devices & navigate their own 'screen budget' for the day.
They don't have meltdowns at the end of screen time any more.
Best of all, I feel like they are happier & more well regulated in general.
...& sometimes, we still buy ourselves a little bit of quiet time with bonus screen time for the day! Haha... #parenting
As I mentioned at the top, I definitely don't intend for this post to layer on any more parent guilt for you, I don't intend to say that we have the answers & that our way will work for you too. I just simply intend to share how we have been doing things & what has worked for us, because sometimes we just need to hear a few ideas & try a few approaches before we find what works for us & our own, unique family!
Take it easy &, in whatever it is that you are doing today, be kind to yourself.
My meal delivery is packaged in this very cleverly made delivery backpack!