Hell is Other People’s Screen Time Policies
The title for this post is quoted from an article written by Lauren Smiley for theverge.com.
As my son River gets closer and closer to his second birthday (this coming November), there’s a big “what next” question Brad and I are going to have to face as parents: What to do about SCREEN TIME? The American Academy of Pediatrics updated its guidelines in 2016, and even this “go-to” black and white rule is now outdated. (Read the summary, here.)
If I had it my way (and I’m glad I don’t; I’m a better parent when the parenting is collaborative), I’d continue with no screen time before the age of 2 until the age of…well, let’s just say, for a long ass time. We don’t have tablets or gaming devices in our home, and our TV screen is in an unfinished basement with flimsy lighting. My husband and I stream Netflix and shows on Amazon Prime maybe one evening a week, when we’re too tired to do anything else.
In other words, we’re pretty low on screen time already, and if the best way to teach your child to drive safely is to model safe driving all their lives, then it follows that modeling appropriate screen time would yield similar results. While individual use of cell phones for video lessons or humorous feeds and links online is definitely part of Brad’s “recharge” and chillax routine after a 12-hour shift (and is never a part of mine)—I get it. As long as family needs are taken care of and we’re flowing, to each his/her own.
But when it comes to my son, I look at it this way: The world River meets when he steps out of our home is full of screens. If he’s at a friend’s house or a birthday party or relatives are all watching Hokies football, you can bet he’ll be included. And as he grows, outside the confines of our home environment, he will never be without screens unless he chooses to limit his exposure or make lifestyle choices that embody a less digital M.O.
Whether I like it or not, my son is going to have to fight for silence, natural light, and his right to privacy for his entire life. If the average American can recognize literally hundreds of company logos (the images, no text) simply because of indirect exposure…what will my son’s generation be absorbing? How much space will be left for individuality? Original thinking? I want to do what I can to assure River’s individuality is strong and solid, before crowding it with confusing, capitalist, or corporate messaging. (And I’m not the only one, a Texas family started Wait Until 8th, a pledge-movement regarding smartphones, that’s fast gaining momentum.)
But I don’t want to raise my son in a bubble. The mountain-hugged valley we live in and the art-nature-centered community we surround ourselves with supports a quieter, moderately unplugged existence. We’re grateful. I feel like we live in a place that will encourage our son to make healthy choices that are right for who he wants to be. But it’d be doing him a disservice to keep him away from an iPad, if the local public school uses iPads for assessment exams. It’d be social suicide to make him leave the room if video games came on screen. I’d never want that for him. So how can these things be integrated successfully into the home? How can empowerment and choice lead the way, rather than tension or power struggles?
I found one media planning tool that’s a strong place to start. And Truth About Tech conducts studies and offers parenting and adovocay tools that are worth its weight in gold. Long gone, it seems, are the days of reading about mastitis and colic…hard to imagine I’d miss that!