We’re living in such a unique time right now. Everyone is experiencing extraordinary circumstances, and I don’t think there’s one person in my friend group who hasn’t expressed a bit of dismay at one point or another in the last several months. Parents have an additional layer to calculate in this bizarre equation that COVID-19 has gifted us. That layer is screen time and how much or little of it is appropriate for our children. Whether it’s an iPad, a TV, phone or handheld gaming console, parents are often torn on how to strike a balance with it all. I think we can give ourselves a little bit of a break on that front, and I’ll tell you why in this blog.
Stop Your Screen Time Worries
We all want the best for our children, and with many of the concerns around screen time and the harm it could potentially do to our eyes, it’s no wonder that parents are concerned. There are definitely a few things to be aware of. Staring at a screen for prolonged amounts of time can lead to a host of undesirable side effects.
Children can experience eye fatigue, blurry vision and even dry eyes. That alone is enough to make any parent shy away from our kids’ favorite pastime. But, even the American Academy of Pediatrics has modified their guidelines. The changes now reflect the current digital culture in which we all live. Too much screen time can be harmful, but the easy fix to that is simply to ensure that we monitor the way children spend time while using their electronics.
Setting up the correct lighting levels, ergonomic positioning, limiting the duration and even blue light glasses are just a few of the things we can do to help protect our kids’ eyes while they engage in all the typical day-to-day activities. If we’re willing to devote a little extra time in these and other ways, screen time shouldn’t have any significant negative impact on our little ones.
Learn By Play
I know it’s tough to let go of the idea that all screen time is bad and should be avoided, but let’s consider a more realistic approach. Many of our children are using computers and tablets to do their virtual learning at the moment. That makes it pretty impossible to refrain from all screen time for any household! One of the things we do in my home is use our iPads to complete educational activities disguised as fun games!
ABC Mouse is just one example of a program that my kids enjoy using. They get to play fun games while learning new skills, and I don’t feel guilty for allowing them the time to spend playing while I get work done. Seek out cool learning opportunities that your children will ask to play, and let their screen time be an added enrichment for their traditional courses of study.
Mom’s Pick Movie Nights
Parents often ask me how I get my kids to wind down so easily at the end of the night. Generally speaking, bedtime for us isn’t too difficult. We do all our nightly routines, and occasionally I’ll get those cute little voices following behind me asking to watch a movie before bed. Now, I’m sure most moms would cringe at the thought of interrupting a normally programmed schedule just to appease the kids with a movie, right? I get it. But, hear me out.
I get the kids showered, with teeth brushed and suited in their cozy pajamas. Then, we get settled in bed and prepared for a movie. There’s just one catch: mom gets to choose what we watch! That’s the most important element in this plan. Think about it. We all love Frozen and Moana, but those catchy songs are impossible not to belt out at the top of our lungs. “Let It Go” and “How Far I’ll Go” don’t exactly create a tranquil, quiet environment conducive to peaceful slumbering.
My solution for this is simple. I select the “movie” each time, and it’s almost always a nature documentary. We watch documentaries about whales, or the rainforest, or even just the planet Earth. You’d be surprised at how interested the kids are in this type of viewing. The visuals are always amazing, and the information is alluring even for younger ages. The kids think they’re being treated to a movie night, all the while they’re learning new scientific facts. The pacing, soundtracks and voiceovers of these types of documentaries are typically pretty calming. My boys always drift off to sleep fairly quickly. Everybody wins in this scenario!
Balance is Key
Screen time isn’t without its challenges. To do it correctly, parents must be willing to commit to monitoring and limit-setting. We cannot use screens as babysitters. But, we live in an age where pretty much everything is done, learned or acquired digitally. If we are to equip our children with healthy habits, the process has to begin early. Don’t stress yourself out over the time your kids spend with their electronics. Find healthy ways for them to engage via screen time, and make it fit into your lifestyle in productive ways.