It sometimes surprises people when they hear from me, the “Simplicity Guy,” that I am not necessarily anti screen for kids. With so much reliable information coming out about the harmful effects of screen use on our kid’s social, emotional and brain development, should we not just stop exposing our kids to these dangers altogether?
As one mother of three kids trying to figure out how to deal with screens said, “This seems like a twenty-five-year, unregulated social experiment that’s happening on a massive scale, and seems like it is not going so well, but what can you do?”
Here’s what you, and all of us, can do. First, understand that what our kids need most is connection, and then work out ways to make sure they get that connection in the mix of all the distractions and pressures in their lives.
There are four essential connections we need to support and nurture in our children. The first is their relationship to nature, the outdoors. This means allowing a child the time to poke around the yard, the park or the fields and get lost in the simple wonder of it all.
The second connection is to friends and play. A child coming home from being with friends and saying with seriousness, “Daddy we played really hard today,” or a teen’s excited group hug as they meet up before their long planned camping trip (or exploration of the mall) is something so basic yet satisfying for any parent to hear or see.
Third, the connection to family and home life is so vital. We know we are on the right track when, for example, a tween walks though the door after a long and difficult day at school, drops their unbelievable heavy backpack on the floor, flops on the sofa and in a huge out breath says simply, “… at last.”
Fourth, and closest to the core, is the connection to one’s self and the values each of us chooses to guide our lives. This is our slowly emerging sense of inner true north rather than the magnetic north of pop culture and what market driven forces tell a kid they must have in order to be somebody and be accepted. An example of an uncluttered inner compass came when a teacher once asked a young child what he was drawing. He answered in a matter of fact way, “God.” The teacher responded kindly, “But no-one knows what God looks like.” Without looking up from his paper, the boy replied empathically, “Well they will soon when I finish this drawing.”
Did you notice that in all these simple, everyday examples that most of us would recognize there was one recurring element? It’s time.
Connection takes time.
This is my concern with screens. Screens are time bandits, and they walk with soft feet so we don’t notice their daily raid until we emerge from our screen-enhanced stupor and say, “Where did that time go?”
So, my position is not so much anti-screen, as it is pro-connection, and even a couple of hours a day on screens severely eats into the time kids need to create these necessary connections in their lives.
My suggestion, then, is to make a decision that is right for you, understanding the trade-off screen time represents, and then set loving limits that give them the time they need to nurture the four basic connections.
How much and what sort of screen time to allow your kids depends on many factors, including their age and the nature or the activity (which is one of the questions we’ll explore in more depth in next week’s workshop). But as long as you stay focused on making sure they have time to develop the basic connections, you’ll find the right balance.
P.S. The “Devices and Parenting” workshop is this coming Tuesday, 11/1, at 9pm Eastern. If you’re not available at that time, don’t worry. The recording will be available, questions are submitted in advance, and the conversation continues afterward in the private Facebook group.
CLICK HERE to learn more and register