Once upon a time, I had a four-year-old and a one-year-old and no TV. I also didn’t have a smart phone or a tablet, although I did have a computer. In those days, I had less screen time, and my kids had very little to none. And then things changed.
First, I got an iPhone. A few months later we got a TV again. Then my husband got an iPad, and I got an iPad. Then after three years our phones got old, and we replaced them. And my husband’s iPad got old, and he replaced that. And we were left with functional phones and a functional tablet that the adults weren’t using, which our kids discovered after a while. And on top of that, our kids got old enough to turn on the TV and switch to the kids’ channel themselves.
This summer there was a labour dispute between public school teachers and the government. School ended two weeks early and started three weeks late, which meant that summer vacation was over three months long. Plus, during the last two weeks of the last school year and the first three weeks of this school year no one knew when the children might have to go back, which complicated things. I planned activities for my kids, but in spite of my best efforts it made for a whole lot of time when I was trying to combine parenting and going to school myself and working from home. It was hard – and my kids were only too happy to entertain themselves with TV and tablets and old iPhones.
And I have to admit – it’s pretty sweet when you get to sleep in for 90 minutes after your kids wake up because they’re entertaining themselves. I like that a whole lot.
Screen time for my nine-year-old and six-year-old is different than screen time when my kids were preschoolers. I’m not trying to beat myself up too much, and I’m definitely not trying to judge other parents. There’s already too much judging going on, especially when it comes to technology. We’ve all got to do what works for our families, and some stranger on the Internet is definitely not in a position to decide what that is for you.
Still, I don’t really like where we are now. I don’t like how much time every single member of my family spends looking at screens. (And the irony that I’m looking at a screen as I type this is just the icing on the cake.) Of course, for the grown-ups a certain amount of screen time is required. I’m doing an online class right now on top of working online. But it’s really easy for “working” to turn into “watching funny cat videos”, so I can’t really claim that I use screens only when necessary. I don’t.
I have a plan. This weekend is Thanksgiving here in Canada – three days devoted to spending time with family and feeling grateful. And my plan is to have a screen fast. Will my kids be happy? Definitely not. Will I be happy? I honestly don’t know. But I’d like to see how we relate after a couple of days without electronics. I’ll report back and let you know how it goes.
What about you – do you ever set aside time to unplug as a family? I’d love to hear how it went if you’ve done it!