I know a lot of screen-free families. I know a lot of families who have hard and fast rules about tablets, iPhones, and screen time.
We are not one of those families. That is not to say we don’t have rules. We do. But when it comes to screen time, we’re not very hardcore. JC mastered my iPhone when he was about a year and a half old. His very first game was called Zoo Train, an app that was worth far more to my sanity than the 99 cents I paid for it. It taught him spelling, matching, and fine motor skills. It also gave my husband and I a chance to eat a meal in a restaurant in peace.
Oh, I know what you’re going to say: children need to learn to sit and behave in restaurants without the help of an electronic. He can do that. In fact, he and I go on what he calls “Mommy & Boy dates” where electronics are banned for both of us. From day one, JC went nearly everywhere with me, and as a result of that, he’s very good in a lot of grown-up places. And because he has those skills, I don’t mind handing over a tablet to let him play games or watch videos.
Speaking of which: I think there is a difference between zoning out in front of a movie or TV show and playing an educational game on a screen. In fact, JC spends very little time “zoning out”. For the most part, he watches educational shows. In fact, last week he told me his favorite part of Curious George was in between the cartoons when they show real kids doing experiments related to the show. I have to pay close attention to those parts because he often wants to replicate them.
JC knows his way around my phone, iPad and computer. Does he have access to the internet? No. Of course not. I might not be hardcore about screen time, but I am about screen content. JC is very used to hearing, “that’s not age appropriate for you” and he is pretty good about policing himself. Big no-no’s in our house include videos with train crashes and Disney “big kid” shows (the last thing I need is a four-year old with a tween attitude). He loves watching videos of steam trains on YouTube–and there are a surprising amount of them available. YouTube launched their YouTube Kids app today on android platforms, and I can’t wait to try it out.
I think because screen time isn’t a fight in our house, we have an easier time: JC knows when to turn off the TV in the mornings and (for the most part) doesn’t put up a fight when game time is over.
My husband and I made these choices for our family knowing the experts recommend. JC plays outside, builds train tracks, reads books. Although we have relaxed screen rules, screen time is not the majority–or, I think, the highlight–of his day. A few days ago I read JC some eBooks on my iPad. He liked them, sat and listened, and when we were done said, “that was nice, but can we read some REAL books now?” It’s moments like those that let me know I’m striking the right balance in our world.
Sharing is caring: what are the screen rules in your house?