Relieving the Guilt of Screen Time
Up until now, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) had pretty strict standards when it came to screen time and kids, advising that children two and under have no exposure to screens and older kids be limited to two hours a day.
Which meant that every time I sat my very active two year old in front of her favorite video just so I could clean the house, I felt guilty. Letting the kids watch more than a couple of hours of Netflix during summer vacation so I could work? Guilty. Letting my pre-teen daughter hole up in her room with her Kindle for hours on end just so I didn’t have to hear her fighting with her younger brother? Guilty.
Let’s face it. The guidelines were pretty impossible. Who hasn’t handed off their phone or tablet to their toddler so they can talk to an adult for a few minutes? And are we really making sure our kids aren’t on the computer/tablet/TV more than two hours per day? I know I’m not alone in my feelings of guilt. Feeling like I’m failing as a parent, but not strong enough to do anything about it.
So when I heard that the AAP was revising their policies, I breathed a sigh of relief. Whew, no more guilt. These professionals have now said it’s okay for our kids to have time in front of various screens, no matter what their age.
The tricky part is, it’s still not a free-for-all. And the new recommendations from the AAP still include setting limits, and being mindful of our own use as parents and how we model the use of screens for our children. So I will continue to try to set limits on screen time for me kids, and here’s why.
I want my kids to play with toys. It might sound slightly archaic, but I believe in toys. I’ve definitely spent enough money on them. And I want those Legos, Hot Wheels, baby dolls and Nerf guns to be well used. Toys give kids an opportunity for imaginative play and social interaction in a way that apps and video games can’t.
I want my kids to play outside. Whether it’s summer vacation or not, I know my kids aren’t outside as much as they should be. But when they do get forced out, it’s hard to get them to come back in. Taking the tablets out of their hands gives them a reason to go outside and play.
I want our family time to include more than watching TV. It’s easy to come home after a busy day at work or school and veg out in front of the TV. But those nights where we eat at the table as a family or play games like UNO and Monopoly are a lot more fun. It’s during those times that we get a chance to have real conversations and truly learn what’s going on in our children’s lives.
I want my kids to love to read. It will help them perform better on the ACT or SAT, it will help them be better citizens, and it will open them up to a hobby where they’ll never run out of things to do. Putting down the screens provides more time to read. It used to be that if you were in the car, sitting in bed waiting to go to sleep or waiting for a doctor’s appointment, you’d read. But today, how often is that book replaced by a tablet or phone?
So I want to say a big thank you to the AAP for taking away the guilt. It is very easy to let tablets, TVs, and computers swallow up hours of our time. And it’s hard to set limits and stand by them. We all know we should — at least now we don’t have to feel guilty when we slip up once in a while.
Karen M. Alley is a freelance writer and editor living in Elkin, NC, with her husband, two children and two dogs. Her work has been published in various parenting magazines, including Charlotte Parent and Piedmont Parent. She is currently providing services to writers as part of a partnership of freelancers, All About the Authors, as well as writing her own blog, “Blending it Up.”