Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Great Screen Time Debate

these thoughts come to us from guest blogger and mommy wonder Jes...

Screens are a constant issue, modern-day monsters that perpetually munch away at time that could be spent doing something else (says the writer who is typing this message onto a screen while checking Facebook – ha!).

OK, so that was a little strong. Nevertheless, let’s be honest, adults. We believe that statement is true for our children, but not really true for us. After all, we exercise regularly, eat our veggies and work hard all week, sacrificing night and day so our little ones can grow up healthy and strong. Yet many of us (myself included) tell our children to go outside and play, give heavy lessons on why we limit screen time, and then as soon as the door is shut we quickly get onto our electronic devices for a quick hit to make it through to the next moment. I ask though, next moment of what? Are screens modern-day wise sages to life that we must always sit before them and bask in their infinite binary wisdom? And why are children the only ones supposed to run outside and play screen free?

You thought this was a message about parenting children didn’t you? Vooohahahaha! It is! No, really it is. Who do you think the children are watching? We know the answer but when confronted by our children, are we prepared to explain ourselves? I have a learned the hard way that through the mighty super powers of observation, children have a way of turning a lesson back on us. Bless their little hearts.

My oldest asked me why he had limited screen time but we were allowed to play on our phones, laptops and such all day long, even at the dinner table (which was the final insult to him). I could have easily given him some variation of "I’m an adult, I can do what I want and when you are an adult, you can make the rules for your life," or, "Do as I say, not as I do." However, I knew if I did, I could not look him in the eyes as it even sounded shallow to my ears simply listening to my thoughts ponder the response.

He was right. It was time to tuck the smart phone away (that yet again made me look dumb which I do believe is its design in the universe), close the laptop and store out of sight, put the remote into the end table drawer so it is not a visual reminder and then ask, what next? Go outside and play! Seriously, when was the last time you played tag or hide and seek? The great outdoors is not reserved only for children, nor is hanging out with neighbors (if you have them). Grab a cup of coffee and knock on your neighbor’s door and see if they can come outside and play, too. Take the children for a walk together, or sit outside and chat while they run around. The fresh air will do you some good, even in the rain. Rain walks are fun -- think of all the endless puddles and splashes!

Are you feeling the panic yet? The fear of what might happen if you don’t have your phone on you while you interact with the world? I did. I felt genuine fear and tried to rationalize it with thoughts of emergencies, great photo ops for Facebook and even (shock, awe) the idea I could be bored. But it only lasted for a moment. The next moment brought joy, relationship and wonder. I completely forgot about my electronic devices. I now make it a habit to leave my phone in the car or at home when doing something fun with my children outside, even while at the park. They deserve my undivided attention and I need to have true focus, rather than split entertainment.

I challenge you all to tuck away the phones, laptops and tablets and go outside and play. When you're in the house, sitting around unsure what to do, reach for ideas rather than electronic devices. Our ancestors led perfectly happy lives without the aid of phones and computers. Let’s make them proud! (Not to mention to reinforce the values we are trying to instill in our children during this digital revolution.)

Let’s be the leaders in modeling screen-free outdoor play. Can I get an amen?

attribution: smartphone image


  1. A hearty "here here" from me! I am super passionate about this (I don't even have a facebook account!) and wholly agree with your post!