Family / Parenting

Saying Goodbye to Screen Time

screen time

Winter break is my least favorite break. Aside from the complex and difficult emotions it can contain–no matter how much we queer it up–it’s tough. There’s the fact that it is two whole weeks, which means we get settled into a new routine about the time Jetpack also has to go back to school. And it’s cold and unpredictable and everything’s closed for the holidays.

So it sounds like a great time to also get rid of screen time, right? TOTALLY.

As parents, we talk about screen time a lot. My doctor asks about it at wellchild checkups. Every other day there’s one study or another telling us that screen time reduces kids’ understanding of emotion, or that it increases learning, or that we should get computers out of the schools, or get more into the schools. Like so many things in our still-puritanical society, it can be presented as a moral thing, a good-parent/bad-parent thing.

We’ve generally limited the amount and content of Jetpack’s screen time. We don’t allow violent video games but do allow age-appropriate tv shows and nothing more than an hour-ish a day.

A little over a year ago, I upgraded my flakey android phone and gave the old phone to Jetpack for him to mess around with. At first it was a once-in-a-while toy, and then an instead-of-tv toy, and then it started living in his room. Basically, in the false dichotomy world of good-parent/bad-parent, I definitely fell off onto the bad-parent side of things.

Until break hit.

Two days in, the whining started. “I want to play on my phone.”

“You’ve already played on your phone today.”

“But I want to play Angry Birds Transformers.”

“You already played on your phone today. Let’s color/do an art project/bake/play Legos.”

“No! I don’t want to.”

“What do you want?”

“I just can’t think of ANYTHING besides playing on my phone.”

That sentence—his absolute insistence that he could think of nothing else—triggered something deep and dark and primal in me.

I threw the damn thing away.

From New Scientist:

Flewitt’s research in schools also found that iPads made children more cooperative and helped quieter kids to speak up. She thinks that is partly because children receive immediate feedback, and because the devices are multimedia. “You don’t need to be able to read words to access knowledge – you can follow icons, hear words spoken,” she says.

A survey of more than 1000 parents with children aged 3 to 5 and their teachers, out this month, backs up the idea that tablets can promote learning. The study found that all the children enjoy reading more when they look at stories using books and a touchscreen compared to just books.

Importantly, the performance of children from low socio-economic backgrounds who use both at home is less likely to be below average at school than if they only look at books.

I hope, someday, that we can get Jetpack a new tablet. I’d love for him to use some educational video games. I’d love to have something he can watch movies on for long car trips.

But for now? I’m just fine with him missing out on that stuff.

The whining, guilt-tripping, apocalyptic-attitude stopped after about a day. Seriously. He still gets about a half-hour of television a day, but he has been more creative, goofier, and less whiny. He’s still a five-year-old, with all the emotional upheaval that a first year of kindergarten gives you, but I haven’t regretted throwing it away. Not one minute. I think for some kids, it can be a useful tool and a wonderful way to spend the time. For Jetpack, the screen turned into a life-sucking monster, and I’m glad it’s gone.

FEATURE PHOTO CREDIT: YURI YU. SAMOILOY via PHOTOPIN cc

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