What I’m about to say might surprise you.
Covid did not make my kids’ screentime soar.
Apart from the odd film, some hamfisted typing, and a few episodes of Horrible Histories, (This is great tv for curious kids by the way.) our kids didn’t follow the well-worn path of Covid kids you hear about in the media.
Instead, they played outside on our (shared) patch of grass, kicking a ball, playing tennis, or disrupting local worm families with tiny twigs.
Why parents suffer from screen guilt
Parents of every generation feel raising kids is more challenging than it was for their caregivers, with values changing along with society.
But we have been thrown a curveball: bringing up kids in a digital world is far from easy. Throw a pandemic in the mix and watch parents struggle.
Considering 8-12-year-olds in the US spend between 4 to 6 hours on screens, childhood experts and pediatricians have growing concerns about how digital devices affect children’s development, sleep, and ability to focus.
With online articles telling us to watch children’s excessive screen time, it’s no wonder we feel guilty each time our child swipes.
Putting screentime in perspective
Technology changes rapidly, and so does the thinking on screen time.
Professor Andrew Przybylski, Director of Research at the Oxford Internet Institute, says:
Screens allow for all kinds of different activities. What matters is not the screen, but what’s happening when children are in front of it.
Then the displacement theory means time spent online takes away from other activities, such as outdoor play, possibly resulting in weight gain or sleep loss.
How did this work for us?
While both insights give a good perspective, I feel the latter is key to my kids’ thriving.
The sky is her limit when you focus on what your child can attain rather than avoid.
A sentiment echoed by Dr. Meghan Owenz, author and Assistant Professor at Penn State University:
“Parents can use positive goals to increase time spent on meaningful activities, which will edge out children’s screen time naturally,”
This chart has been a godsend for us, with our daughter meticulously tracking her green time. It means she is motivated to play outside, loves it, and plays some more.
It has also saved us from the endless screentime tussle. Once they’ve soaked in a daily slice of sunshine, I’m happy for them to relax with a screen.
How to focus on green time rather than screentime
Try these three simple ideas:
– Download this tracker or similar.
– Give your children positive goals for activities not involving screens: reading
outside, exercising, and outdoor play.
– Organise outdoor family activities.
We are bringing up kids in an increasingly digital world. Technology brings many benefits, while posing challenges to our children
Online articles telling us to watch excessive screentime have made parents feel guilty without acknowledging the positive benefits some content can provide.
Also, focusing on outdoor activities might edge out screentime naturally.
But don’t take my word for it. Instead, get your kids outside, and watch them thrive, like mine.
Previously published on Medium.