If you’re a parent, there’s nearly a 1000% chance you’ve read some sort of guidelines about screen time. You’ve read multiple articles about how much time is too much time, how young kids should be when they start, what times of day are best for development, etc. You’ve likely tested setting time limits and clear boundaries. You may have even found a system that worked for you. And then, a pandemic that forced indoor isolation hit.
For me, my work is all about screens. I consume and create a lot of content. My hobby is also grounded in screens. I love art and film. So the screen debate has been something I’ve been hyper focused on. I want to set clear boundaries but I also know that the content housed in our screens can be amazing and educational. As with everything in life, it’s all about finding the balance. I know enough to know that too much of anything is not great.
Pre-pandemic, our house had a clear routine that screen time fit neatly into it. A few weeks into the lockdown, that structure went out the window. Screen time started to drastically increase, for everyone. We bought our first gaming system, Friday movie nights started to bleed into Thursday-Sunday movie nights. Playdates turned into virtual playdates. Mid-day TV breaks while mom and dad were working became the norm. Suddenly it was all screens, all the time and the guilt about it started to build.
So when I was sent the “How to Work With – Not Against – Screen Time” podcast, I didn’t hesitate to hit play. After 15 minutes I let out a huge sigh of relief and started cutting myself some slack.
Here are some of the main takeaways, but I highly recommend listening for yourself:
Know Your Values
It all comes down to knowing what your personal values are and then finding ways tech can support that. Leaning into technology the right way means finding a way to live out your values as a family through technology.
During this pandemic, Animal Crossing has supported our value of shared experience and collaboration even if we can’t all participate at the same time. The creation of the fictional island is our joint effort and it has brought us together during a crazy time.
Tools For A Healthy Relationship
We have more tools in our tool kit to help kids develop a healthy relationship with technology than just pure restriction (aka time limits).
Take the time to curate screen-related activities that support your values. Is that art? Science & nature? Collaboration? Connection? Safety?
Use media as a jumping-off point for other ways to engage when you can. For us, binge-watching Floor is Lava on weekday nights has translated us creating our own courses to play at home on the weekends.
How Technology Can Help
Stay focused on what you’re trying to make work and honestly lean into how technology can help that.
When schools closed, we gave our 8-year-old access to the email account we started for her before she was born. Her school friends got email accounts as well. Before long they were emailing each other and setting up their own virtual playdates. It became a connection point that supplemented the connection they had lost from having to be isolated. (Bonus: mom & dad were relieved of being a playdate secretary.)
In the end, I was fretting so much about doing it wrong, that I was afraid to recognize what was going right. I’m going to lean into mindfully embracing technology and the ways it helps make things work, especially during a pandemic. If I need to throttle back in the future, so be it. But for now, I’m going to go easy on myself and welcome the help technology brings to the table.