We all know the studies about the harmful effects of technology on young children’s brain development. We also have probably read just as many studies about the wonderful advantages of raising kids in the tech age. That’s the thing about the internet; we have so much information. How do we even begin to sort it all as parents? The reality is, we don’t!
We all make choices that work at the moment for our families.
If you are like me, half the time those choices end up not working and you learn to pivot. For us, we recently decided to pivot our stance on weekday screen time. We are no longer allowing our daughter to have handheld screen time during the week. She may watch a show with us on the TV after school while she has a snack but the handheld devices (iPad/PlayStation/etc) are gone during weekdays. She isn’t huge on TV watching, so the draw there hasn’t been a problem for us. If it were to become one, we may pivot again.
Currently, she has had an iPad for two years and it worked really well for her. During the many doctor appointments we had to drag her to while nursing my mom through chemo, it was a lifesaver. It worked really well when we were on lockdown during COVID. It worked really well when I was working and had to transport her very early to work with me. It worked really well when she had to be in the car for hours on end driving my nanny kids to and from activities. It has worked really well for many things. But now, it is not working for us anymore.
I am now in a position where I am home with her in the mornings and after school, so we do not have the outside pressures and needs that we once did, and relying on the iPad to “help” doesn’t need to happen. Excessive screen time isn’t needed and frankly, it isn’t working for any of us. I was noticing she was very scattered and irritable after she got off the screens. Her entire mood changed when we introduced a screen. I’m sure some of you have noticed the same things in your household. She has struggled some adjusting to school this year, sleep has become a major issue, and getting out the door without a fight in the morning has become rare.
It was time to make some changes for us, and the first thing to go were the screens.
This small change has become a big game changer for us! I’m not going to lie and say it’s been easy. The first few days were no fun – she cried and begged for her device and was relentless. We persevered. On day four, she stopped asking, stopped crying, and began to find new things to do. She started to use her imagination! Now ultimately this has made more work for us and most definitely more messes for me. But it’s also giving her more opportunities to use her creativity, more practice helping to clean up messes, and overall more options for what to do with her free time. Suddenly, she remembered she loves sewing and painting and Barbies. These things were constantly being passed up for the screens. Now they are her first choice.
It’s giving us so many opportunities to connect and bond as a family as well. She has more time to do the things she loves and she is cooperating much easier. Did this solve all our problems magically? No. Like most things in life, there is no quick fix. But it has brought so many positives into our lives that we sat down last week and decided to be screen-free during the weekdays from now on. Living without a screen to numb away those hard emotions has been challenging at times (cue the after-school meltdowns), but it has also given us a chance to work through those big emotions together. A skill that will help serve her for a lifetime.
We all want to raise good humans and be good humans and part of that for our family was recognizing what we needed to work on. Excessive screen time was at the top of the list. Will we never use screens during the week again? No. Like all things in life, I think balance and moderation are key. For now, we will have limited screens on the weekends and save the weekdays for other things. As our child ages, I’m sure new challenges will arise and we will take each step together. My golden rule for parenting has always been: no judgment and do what works best for your family. If you find you have some similar challenges, I urge you to try one week without screens and see what happens.
Do you have rules around screen time? I would love to hear how your family navigates technology in 2022.