Turn off the box and live a little!
Screen time is a hot topic of discussion in my household and amongst my circle of mumma friends.
When my husband and I started a family 7 years ago we made the decision not to have a television in our home. We didn’t want the television to become the focal point of our living room and a part of our everyday lives. Although we love technology and the convenience and enjoyment it brings, the decision concerning the television was about taking control of the images we feed our brains and acknowledging that there are more important things in life than the big black box.
Don’t get me wrong; I know firsthand the pleasures involved in viewing. Sometimes, at the end of a long day, it can be impossible to imagine stringing a sentence together, let alone engaging in an intelligent conversation, the preference being to mentally shut down and physically melt into that big, comfy sofa, submitting to a ‘brainless’ episode of something light and fluffy.
What I know, however, is that occasions like this don’t bring you any closer to your spouse or enhance your relationship in any way – not in the long term. Not in a meaningful way. More than anything else, what I love, are those rare evenings when the laptop remains closed and me and my man talk, play a game, make love, read a book, listen to music or simply go to bed early. (*More on this topic in an upcoming article on how me and my hubby keep our relationship alive via weekly date nights. Nothing gross I promise!)
There is plenty of information out there about the effects our screen-practices are having on our lives. We have all seen instances of couples or groups of friends eating out in cafes, not even looking at one other but rather, sitting in silence, lost in an alternate universe of social media, glued to their (not so) smart phones. Or how about Mothers at the park who are so engrossed in their virtual worlds that they fail to look up when their children call out, ‘Mummy, Mummy look at me!’ Okay, so many of us have been guilty of such screen misdemeanors. But I do wonder, ultimately, whether any Facebook post or email is so juicy or urgent that it’s worth missing out on the rich rewards of having a meaningful human interaction – face-to-face?
And what about the negative effect screens are having on our children? Apparently, the average Australian child consumes about 2 hours of screen media per day. When I was young, I was allowed to watch a half-hour of TV per day and I remember fighting with my younger sister about whether to watch Play School or Sesame Street. We did not have a computer or even a VCR (remember those?!). I spent the majority of my childhood building cubbies, dressing up, playing board games, riding my bike and going to the beach. I want that for my children too.
The amount of screen time my hubby and I have permitted our kids has varied over the years. At the moment, Miss 4.5 and Mr 7 are allowed half an hour each of ‘watching’ per day. In addition, they are allowed one ‘movie night’ per week – usually Friday – where they watch a kid’s film.
(I might add that screen time is the first privilege the kids lose due to misdemeanors…. of which, I admit, there are generally a couple per week… This week has been the entire week!)
The general practice in our household is that screen time occurs after school, and usually after a snack and tidying up toys. It gives our children some ‘down’ time and allows me to make dinner in peace. Every now and then they can play a game on the ipad, but they need to accept that their father and I regularly choose to initiate tech-free days.
It seems that no matter what our relationship to technology, it is here to stay. Rather than fight it, I want to develop healthy ways to engage with technology and integrate it mindfully into my family’s lives.
My essential philosophy is that life has so much to offer, besides screens and the worlds they lay open to our eyes. Some questions we should be asking ourselves as parents are:
- Do we want our kids to watch a documentary about nature or actually be out there in nature experiencing it first hand?
- Do we want our kids to watch people talking and interacting or do we want them to be out there doing it, face-to-face?
- Do we want our kids to experience ‘boredom’ so their brains have a chance to think creatively and discover what activities excite them and bring them fulfillment?
Now more than ever I believe we as parents need to lead the way in regards to technology. We need to be a good example. We need to teach our children about the important things in life…
How do you manage screen time in your household? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comment section below.
Check out this thought provoking (but still cool) series of photos