Should Kids’ Screentime Be Unlimited?
Devices are a sticky subject now. 20 years ago it was TV time. No matter what, though, unless you’re Amish, you have to reckon with it.
I’ll share what we do- but would love to hear your thoughts.
A Yahoo!Parenting article (which — as a sidenote– I think should be retitled more honestly as Yahoo!UNparenting, because nearly all their articles reflect a “your kids know best; cheer them on as they do odd or harmful things in life.”) recently promoted a hands-off approach to kids and devices, and they attribute this to a coming release of new AAP guidelines regarding devices:
The new guidelines are still in progress but the AAP has released a few key messages, to include specific guidance about content and teen screen time. They’re really loosening up, which is a relief.
Later the author confesses:
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on the receiving end of a dirty look because my kid was using a tablet (with headphones) at a restaurant. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told my kids get too much screen time (usually by my mom) or how many times I’ve felt like I just suck as a parent when I hear other moms talk about how they severely restrict or limit screen time. If we’re going by the old AAP standard of two hours a day for kids over 2 (and none for kids under 2) then yes… I’m pretty sure my kids’ brains are rotting.
While I genuinely appreciate honesty… and believe this is an area where a lot of parents struggle with determining what boundaries are best, this article’s author seems far too lax in the way she speaks about these things.
The problem with anyone who advocates for a limit-free approach to technology is that they are doing so without knowing what the real-world consequences of that decision will be, over time.
This is nonsense.
The reason the AAP standards are changing is not because what’s best for kids is changing; it’s because parents don’t want to hear standards from doctors that they feel are impossible to live out.
Sadly, too many parents today:
- WANT to be able to hand their kids a device anytime, without guilt
- think devices are an ok way to get some peace and quiet.
- don’t want to fight this particular battle, especially because it feels unwinnable
- are staring at their own screens for 8-12 hours a day,
- think that a kid staring at a screen for 2-4 hours seems “not so bad.”
Parenting is hard work. And it’s hard to say “no.”
But when kids look up, get out in the world, solve problems, run, jump, play… it does more than get their eyes off a screen; it gets their brain moving and their heart working and feeds their soul.
- Connecting with PEOPLE– flesh and blood– matters.
- Connecting with the world around us– trees, dirt, bloody knees, fall leaf collecting, snowman building, river rock skipping– matters.
- Connecting with REAL BOOKS– page turning, perseverance-building, non-trite literary BOOKS– matters.
Just because some doctors are changing their opinions (likely because they find it hard to say “no” to their own kids) does not mean what’s BEST FOR KIDS has changed.
Here’s my challenge to us all– to you, as well as to me:
- Put down the screens when it’s not purposeful, out of self-discipline and a heart of conviction about what matters.
- Set an example of what it looks like to be a master OVER your device, rather than being mastered BY your device.
- Don’t even put a smartphone in the hand of anyone who does not need to make a phone call (rare for anyone under 12 years old.) Teach your kids to look up and look out and engage with the people and world around them.
It’s a rare thing nowadays and doing these will stand out and make your child a walking WONDER by the time they get to college.
- Someone able to HAVE A CONVERSATION without being distracted,
- someone able to pick up a book, let it simmer in their brain as they draw out themes and ideas rather than moving on to the next thing,
- someone able to look PEOPLE in the eye and have a real life interaction rather than only saying hard things in a private message or text, or not at all–
this sort of person is going to become increasingly rare.
This is the way to prepare your child for life and give him an edge over peers. Do what parents have been doing for centuries: talking to, and living REAL LIFE alongside their kids.
Here are some of the guidelines that we’ve maintained:
- No screen time for children under 2 is absolutely reasonable, and we’ve lived it now for 13 years with our 7 children (at every point in the last 13 years, we’ve had someone– and sometimes multiple someones– 2 or under). This means no devices, and no videos. No screen time whatsoever.
- No video games for children under 4 has been our general standard. For older kids, in our home they are allowed to play for one afternoon a week (from 2-5pm), IF they have gotten chores done and been respectful throughout the week. (AND if we don’t have something else going on that Saturday afternoon. If we do, no video games that week– there’s no “make up” time for missed gaming time. It’s not a “right,” it’s a privilege.)
- None of our children (currently, ages 13 and under) has a phone. Nor will they, for some time.
- Set clear limits on devices, and don’t be afraid to make your limits stricter than “average.”
I’m not saying our approach is the only right way. Every single parent on the planet right now is wading their way through uncharted waters. Never before has there been such potential for knowledge, learning, smut, and nonsense, to all be in view of our children, non-stop, held in the palm of their hands.
This device business really will eat your child’s soul if you let it; instead, rein it in and only use them on purpose.
IN THE COMMENTS, PLEASE SHARE: What are the standards for devices in your home? Do you find this to be a challenging “battle” with your kids? How are you currently doing in this area?
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