It’s the most wonderful time of the year….
But I only seem to hear kids singing that song and not parents. Summer can be a wonderfully enjoyable time of year as a parent, IF you set yourself and your children up for success before summer even arrives. In our digital age, screen time is a hot topic of conversation. I recently read this article written by a mom who allowed her children completely unrestricted screen time. This got me to thinking about this topic and where I stood on the issue.
Should we place firm boundaries around our kids with regard to screen time?
Should we allow them to figure it out for themselves?
Does it have to be one or the other? We as humans try to make everything black and white, yes or no, this or that. Why can’t it be both?
I was talking with another parent who was struggling with this same issue in her home and was very fearful that if she did not place firm boundaries down (aka “control” her child with regard to screen time) her daughter would become a screen-obsessed junkie. First of all, it is important for us to realize when we are allowing FEAR to control our thoughts and our actions. Things rarely go well when FEAR is in the driver’s seat. Can we discern when our concern for our child is rooted in a place of fear as opposed to it being rooted in a place of love and trust, only wanting the best for our child? That is perhaps the most important question to answer.
Until we recognize what it looks like when fear is driving us, we are helpless to do anything about it. But once we can recognize when it shows up, we can then address it and move through it. With regard to screen time, it is important to know where our child is developmentally and what is an appropriate expectation of their ability at this point in time, given their strengths, weaknesses, diagnoses, etc. There are plenty of resources out there to help you determine what that looks like for your child.
Where do we go from here?
Once you know what is appropriate for your child, what if you were to sit down with him/her and discuss what screen time might look like this summer? What are their thoughts? You may be surprised by what they come up with, but also keep in mind that this plan should not be set in stone. Before you try it, you have no idea if it will be a successful plan, so in the conversation with your child, you can discuss how you will both try this setup and then re-evaluate (in a day, a few days, a week?) to see how things are going.
You should plan that if you feel things are not working out well, you may come to your child before your agreed-upon re-evaluation to discuss. But make sure that you are not coming to these conversations from a place of fear, because things will go downhill from there.
Inside of this initial conversation about screen time should also be a discussion about what makes up a healthy balance in life – screens, but also outside play, physical activity, eating healthy foods, spending time with friends, reading, etc. It is important to help our child balance the screen time with all the other parts that make up a well-lived life. The other point that the author made in this article was that when kids get a new video game, they will likely be obsessed with it for a time, as we adults are when we “sink our teeth” into something new. But eventually the novelty wears off and they are on to something else, IF we allow things to progress naturally. Why should we think that their patterns and habits would be much different than ours?
When we come from a place of fear AND dig our heels in with our children, that is where the epic power struggles begin. We are giving a lot of attention, focus and energy to the thing we are fearing, which makes it seem 100 times bigger than it needs to be. To avoid this scenario, it is important to make sure that we first check in with ourselves before we ever address anything related to screens (or anything else that brings up fear for us). Our children know us better than we possibly realize, and they know when FEAR is driving.
What is your plan for summer screen time in your home?