Let’s talk about one of the great questions on the minds of most parents today..is screen time harmful to my child?
I’ve read more articles than I can count, enough to make my head spin. Some saying to have no limits and let your kids self-regulate, then there’s those on the opposite end of the spectrum, the all screen time is evil folks. I admit this has been one of our top struggles since we started homeschooling. My kids in a few short years have gone from watching the occasional PBS kids show or playing a Super Mario game to wanting nothing but Youtube and Minecraft. In most ways following the child resonates with me but this just wasn’t working out in our household. I’d allow them unlimited time but on the weekends only. Then Monday would come along and I’d have super cranky, zombie-like children who had forgotten what the outdoors was.
Two of my kids are in those tween years where I can feel them growing more independent every day. They’re wanting less time with Mom and more time listening to Imagine Dragons in their room. Is there some sort of magic puberty switch that flips when a kid approaches 12 that automatically makes them awesome at eye rolling? There must be because I can’t see any other way that my sweet girl became an earbud wearing eye-rolling tween. Nothing makes her more ticked than me limiting her screen time. She can self- regulate much more than my soon to be 10 year old. If I allowed it he would watch Youtube and play video games for 16 hours a day or more. I’m all for Youtube for education purposes and I know this form of entertainment will end up taking over the television industry. For a parent it’s just terrifying that there are such little regulations, am I right? My 12 year old can innocently type in Furries, which she did, thinking she will find videos about drawing animal characters and get a whole different set of viewing material…true story. This brings me back to my original point, is all of this harming our children?
Here are some household switches that I’ve implemented to get my kids less focused of screens without completely eliminating them.
Time limits- If you’re 10 years old and playing Fortnite with all of your friends, time limits totally suck, but around here they’re necessary to avoid post screentime zombie apocalypse.
I allow my kids to play video games for about 2 hours on a weekend, whichever day we have less going on. The only exception is audiobooks or Youtube for educational content only. Something magical happened about a week after we started this new house rule, the whining stopped and the playing began. I noticed all of my kids engaged in imaginative play for hours at a time. They were building forts together, creating magical worlds in the backyard, and using toys they hadn’t used in forever.
Being a role model- This is a tough one for us homeschool Mamas, I know.
Without realizing it I too have become a phone zombie. I would unconsciously grab my phone and find myself scrolling without even realizing it. My farm game would call to me while I was waiting for my kids to finish their math so we could start our read aloud. Instead of chatting at meals I was reading blog posts or liking photos. So when we had a family meeting to talk about the new screen time changes I decided I would need to include myself in this too. I still find it hard, especially because my business depends on me being online. So now I make sure I tell my kids what I’m doing when I am on my phone for extended periods of time. Mommy is just checking emails, Mommy is working on a blog post, Mommy is setting up a book party. Doing this lets them know I’m not mindlessly scrolling or playing games and will hopefully help them in the future to not make the mistakes that I’ve made when they get a phone one day.
Create family togetherness times- I remember the whole weekend going by and barely seeing my son because he was glued to the couch in our man cave room (where the video games live) non stop playing games.
I’d lay in bed Sunday night thinking about how sad that made me. I know I get them all day every day because we homeschool but the vibe is totally different Monday-Friday when we are completing their schoolwork, activities, and chores. The weekend is our chill time and before revamping our game time rules none of us in the house would hang together unless we were leaving the house. Fast forward and now we play board games just about every Sunday. You can follow this link to read about some of our favorite family games. We grab some snacks, sit around our big table and get our nerd on. I love that this has brought us together and during those hours my kids aren’t even thinking about video games, they’re thinking about how do I kick Dads butt in this game. It makes my heart so full.
Multiplayer games-If you are going to play video games make some of them mulitplayer.
We have always been a house of gamers. Not me so much but my husband has been an avid gamer since he was a boy. He has a room dedicated to his video games and owns pretty much every system. This is what makes it even harder for us to regulate our kids because we too love gaming! Maybe one day when they’re older we can loosen the reins a bit if we see that the games are not affecting their moods and behavior so much. I’d much prefer us to play games together. We have cracked up watching Luigi’s death stare in Mario Kart, or enjoyed beating level after level on other Mario games. My older kids love to play story-based RPGs with my husband. Just like playing board games together this gives us time to create lasting memories.
I’d love to hear what your family screen time rules are, if you have any? I’m always eager to hear that I’m not the only one with these struggles. I’m sure as time goes on and my kids become full teens I’ll have to update this post.For now though I’m happy with how things are going, and my kids aren’t rolling their eyes nonstop about it anymore so there’s that.