“Screen-time” is one of those parental landmines that no one warns you about before you have kids. That you should have a stance on it, that stance should basically be “none” and that you will be the stalwart upholder of said stance.
Like so many of the philosophies that I’ve thought I’d be one way on in theory and have found myself being a 180 on in practice (hey “co-sleeping” at least has “sleeping” in the word which is better to me than “zombie”), screen time is endlessly tricky.
I’ll buy the no screen time for kids under 2 but after that it becomes it becomes a muddled mess. Do you abstain with the logic that they have their whole lives to be immersed in screens, especially when they hit school or do you help them learn and navigate the inevitable technology that will thread through their lives.
I believe a bit of both and like most other areas of parenthood I try not to be dogmatic about it. But the more I think about it, I’ve realized that the screen time debate is less about what and how much my kids are watching but more about what they’re not noticing.
I credit my well developed imagination in great part to the long expanses of “nothingness” in my childhood. Endless road trips on the plains of Saskatchewan, waiting for my parents to finish working at their office, temple on Sunday morning (which I’m sure is a universal place of kid daydreaming). Long periods of time that stretched seemingly endlessly (and tragically) in front of me when I was expected to entertain myself quietly. Those times helped me hone my ability to day dream and imagine and observe.
Even at this moment while on vacation, when I’ve forced myself to keep as screen free for myself, I’m sitting here writing in a paper notebook. It feels so foreign but also so freeing, like I’m remembering a vital, but long forgotten skill.
My greatest love is to sit and observe life around me. But these days where I retreat to my phone in any free moment, I’ve been cheating myself of those moments of reflection previously forced upon me.
Which brings me back to my kids. We bought Bug and Peanut each a kids Kindle this Christmas, thinking it’d be a better way to facilitate the inevitable time they do spend on a screen.
But already I see how these devices have the same gravitational pull as our smartphones. Even when just sitting on the dresser they call to the girls, wanting to be played with. Needing to be the default of time passed.
And that I’m not okay with. I need them to learn that critical skill of noticing. Of imagining.
It’s not a ban on screen time per se. But it is a commitment, on my part as much as for them, to not let the screens be the default.
Let them get bored instead.