Parenting is hard and there are a lot of things that parents must figure out about their own views on before being able to teach their children about them. Screen Time is a thing that can be very hard to figure out.
I recently read an article by Allison Slater Tate Parenting as a Gen Xer: We’re the first generation of parents in the age of iEverything. http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2014/09/29/parenting-as-a-gen-xer-what-its-like-to-be-the-first-generation-of-parents-in-the-age-of-ieverything/?tid=sm_fb
The article discusses being a parent of children who are immersed in a digital age. As a parent that did not grow up with cell phones, texting, Facebook, and everything digital, it is a new territory trying to determine how to navigate all these gadgets with children. In the article Tate states “On the one hand, resistance is futile: this is my children’s brave new world, and they need to know and understand all the internet highways and byways to live in it. On the other hand, my children don’t have fully-developed frontal lobes yet.”
I would argue the first point Tate makes. Resistance is not futile and letting children spend countless hours in front of a screen is not your only option. At first it may seem that this is the only option because it is everywhere. However; after thinking about this and really deciding what I want for my family and myself, I have determined that there are other options. The other options are not as obvious at first because marketers for digital devices are extremely good. If you look past the marketing and the addictive quality of digital media, you can see that you really don’t need to have constant access to the virtual world.
When I think about the best moments of my day they are never times when I was online or watching television. Children do not have the capacity to make the best decisions and if given the freedom they will spend hours in front of a video game or television. As a parent you have to be the guide and the one who figures out how much is too much. Children who are “deprived” of a cell phone or television do not have a disadvantage over their peers. They are just as capable of learning how to use the gadget just as everyone who grew up without these things is able to use them now. I never had a cell phone, texting, ipad, etc. as a child and I can navigate them like a pro.
So what does restricting screen time at an early age do to the child? It allows them to use their brain. The children without these digital things and media in their lives have to figure out games to play and stories to read and things to do with their peers. They have to be active and get up and run around. A child who is bored is one who can become the most creative. Allowing your child time to figure out how to have fun instead of providing instant entertainment is giving a great gift to your child.
In addition to being more creative and able to find ways to enjoy the world around them (instead of a virtual one), children develop their social skills while interacting with others. Being able to look at a person and understand how they are feeling is a skill and it needs to be developed. The adults now were not constantly texting and on Facebook so they were given the opportunity to develop real peer relationships. Now their job is managing that media and determining how much is acceptable in their own life. Children today are not given that same opportunity to be in a world without constant screen time unless their parents make it for them.
People are starting to ask what this does to children growing up in a world constantly surrounded by media. Studies are being done to look at this. One article that looks at children and screen time is Five days at outdoor education camp without screens improves preteen skills with nonverbal emotion cues. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563214003227
The title says it all. Children who are not allowed to have screen time for five days were better at nonverbal emotional cues. This means that allowing your child the freedom to go out and talk face to face with friends instead of being online, allows them to develop better social skills. So after looking at this I determined that being able to be connected with people and nature is much more important than knowing how to use the latest iphone. Once I knew my own beliefs on the subject, restricting screen time was a no brainer. Each time I get a request for more screen time I just think of the wonderful gift I am giving them and all the skills they are developing while they are not sitting in front of a screen.