We Ditched Weekday Screen Time
I have a love/hate relationship with technology. When I’m catching up on my Facebook feed, I love it. When I’m shooting off a snarky text to my best friend, I love it. When I find my kids staring at a screen for a disgustingly long time, or begging me to use the iPad at any free moment, I hate it.
Until they entered elementary, my twins had never really used an iPad and that worked just fine for us. They watched TV, sure, but because they weren’t getting screens anywhere else, I pretty much had complete control over how much screen time they got. I knew the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommended limits, and we worked off of that. No arguments. Easy-peasy.
Then came kinder and a 1:1 student to iPad ratio. My kids thought they had died and gone to Heaven. Now I was hearing about academic-related screen time, like math apps, online reading programs and presentation building. But, I was also hearing from my son about all of the pretend things he was buying on Amazon. My daughter would tell me about the latest hamster video she watched online. And, in a moment of spontaneous self-narking, my daughter told me that she would just pretend to get her reading done so that she could “play” on the iPad.
Argh, I felt so frustrated by what I was hearing!
Lots of screen time every day in the classroom had me hating to turn on the TV at home, because I knew that by the time they came home each day, my two youngest were already approaching, or had flown past, that recommended screen time limit. And, although they would have figured it out at some point, I hated that they now really knew what an iPad could do. I was now hearing a massive ramp up in petitions for Minecraft time or random searches of hamster images on Google.
I taught school before iPads made their way into the classroom, and when my students finished their work, they read, or drew something, or daydreamed, or grabbed extra work. Now my kids, and their classmates, were rushing through their actual work to consume the equivalent of cotton candy for their little brains.
About that time, I started hearing about more and more families in my neighborhood electing to go screen-free on weekdays.
That really appealed to me because those were the days that my kids were getting way too much time on devices. School days are also when they only have two hours between bus drop-off time and dinner, so I love to see them riding bikes or playing outside with friends. With my husband on board, we told all three of our kids that we would be going screen free on weekdays, then we ducked and covered, waiting for the fallout.
And there was none. Surprisingly, all three were on board and have been ever since. I didn’t want them to be the sad kids, the ones whose parents let them watch nothing and eat only high-fiber, low-sugar, all-organic everything, even at birthday parties, including their own, so we said that they could watch what they wanted on the weekends, figuring that our busy schedule would provide its own limits to how much they could consume.
And it did. The new plan worked like a charm. Until this last fall and winter hit.
The rainy and then cold-and-windy weather put a stop to our family hikes after the twins’ indoor basketball games. A succession of colds, and then the flu for my son, kept us sequestered in the house. The TV, iPad and Kindle were happy to pick up the slack. And the begging for screen-time hit an all-time high.
The weather is starting to turn nicer, but my kids are still choosing a screen on the weekends versus hopping on their bikes to ride, or ringing the doorbell of the little friend across the street. My husband and I will soon be motivated to hike again, or to go play with the kids at Zilker, or to hit up some weekend festival (there always seems to be one), and hopefully that will bring back the natural screen-time limits. But, the weekend-only screen time plan that we put in place has left me wanting more.
I guess what I’m hoping for is that holy grail. The plan that gives the kids reasonable limits, ones they don’t fight against because they seem reasonable and fair to all. The plan that helps them feel satisfied by their screen time, enough that they decide sometimes to turn the power off themselves, and to go outside and ride that bike or ring that doorbell.
But, maybe that’s wishful thinking. Maybe there is no such plan because there is no such thing in parenting. Parenting is a non-stop push and pull between doing what our kids want and what we know is best, and then making peace with never quite getting it right. I’m still hoping for that parenting manual, or next-best, that crystal ball. The one that says that by the time these three people, the ones most important to me in the world, leave my house, I will have done right by them. I will have equipped them to handle what the world will throw at them and come out on the other side stronger for it. That’s the plan that I need.