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Being realistic about screen timeJune 6, 2019

This evening Adam sat, pajama clad, perched on one of my knees, turning my ankle underneath it uncomfortably, but I wasn’t about to move. His fingers traced the un-illustrated words on the screen gripped by the description of the ninja’s that were moving towards our heroes. As a parent I knew I was going against so much medical advice but I wasn’t about to change a thing.

Blue light in the hour before bedtime is known to mess with sleep but it’s also the ideal time to read chapter books. Chapter books are new in our house, we’ve only been using them a few weeks and they are, necessarily, only in digital format. We have kicked off the habit with Mary Pope Osbourne’s Magic Treehouse series (similar but cheaper than Enid Blytons faraway tree books). After the success of book 1 we discovered these books are available online for free here.

Once you are past the saga’s of baby food, nursery and potty training the parents go to town on the issue of screen use. An ‘ipad baby’ is a particularly vicious parenting slur. Parenting groups will talk about sitting with their all natural babies and allowing ‘a maximum of 10 minutes a day’ screen use with their darling 3 year old who is already reading chapter books and cooking cordon bleu! Meanwhile my son and husband have been playing ‘Lego Lord of the Rings’ on the ps3 for over an hour already.

It’s easy to hear the ‘advice’ about how much screens are ‘harming’ our kids and hear the failure gong resound, but screens can be incredibly positive experiences.  Screens connect us to grandma and grandpa, even the experts agree that contact outweighs any negatives. All those sudo-educational apps and key concepts wrapped in Youtube video’s are also a great source of knowledge and vocabulary – where else did my 4 year old son learn that not brushing your teeth gives you ‘cavities’?

While screen time should be monitored, it should also be utilized as a tool.

While screen time should be monitored, it should also be utilized as a tool. Because that’s what it is. Recently he’s been enjoying playing along with the silly games his parents use to unwind. It’s what he’s doing in the picture above, working out the route to get the longest string. This is positive screen use, it’s not a parent bored silly glaring over the shoulder of the child. We play together, we both enjoy it (mostly), it’s a corporate experience where we celebrate and commiserate together. Through this time we learn about working as a team and reinforce taking turns. 

I’d be the first to admit that we use the tablet for the wrong reasons – hands up parents of a kid who can’t internalize the inner monologue and need a break too. All tools need responsible use – we’ve found the ‘kids place‘ app amazing, it allows us to specify which apps he can access. I try and choose a range of apps that have problem solving or educational elements, we have the kids bible app too, though we also leave him youtube kids. We often specify he needs to choose a non-screen related activity. Ideally, I’d like to change how much he chooses screens, but I’m also realistic. Our son is blessed with many toys and tools to help his development, we try and encourage him not to overdose on any one, weather it’s because we want to save his eyes from artificial light or our feet from the Lego bricks. 

Our son is blessed with many toys and tools to help his development, we try and encourage him not to overdose on any one, weather it’s because we want to save his eyes from artificial light or our feet from the Lego bricks.

For us the tablet will continue to be a tool in that journey which opens up a world of extra resources and tomorrow night we’ll discover where the ninja’s are taking our heroes. (and yes, I’ve added Enid Blyton paperbacks to the wish-list, but not from guilt)

 

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