Screen-time is definitely a touchy subject for parents. How much is too much? What is good screen-time and what is bad screen-time? There’s so much information out there it can be overwhelming to even begin to sift through it all.
And then the guilt as a parent sets in as you wonder if you’re doing this whole screen-time-monitoring-thing right. I recently wrote an article on “screen-control” (which you can read here) that gives some easy tips that you can apply in your home now to reduce the stress that screen-time can bring.
On the flipside, I was recently speaking with a colleague of mine, Dr. Laura Froyen, and she had some great thoughts on why screen-time is actually a good thing in many ways. I asked her to write a guest post for you guys, my awesome Flip subscribers, with her great ideas.
Read on from Laura ….
Parents and caregivers are frequently warned about the dangers of screen time and digital media. We hear a lot about how screens are damaging our kids, stealing them away from us, and cause problems in general. As a result, many, if not most, of our interactions with our children around screen media tend to be negative in nature. We are always monitoring their screen time and setting limits, and this ultimately leaves us feeling grumpy and disconnected, right?
But what if I told you it didn’t have to be that way? What if I told you that screens and digital media, like games and apps, could actually be a way to connect with your child and build deeper relationships?
You see, the way we use screens and digital media these days is drastically different than when we were growing up. Much of the research on screens is actually geared toward passive media, such as TV shows, as opposed to the interactive media that kids are using today. As parents, we need to keep an eye on media use and screen time to keep our kids safe and to be sure that they aren’t missing out on other experiences and activities that are crucial to their development, like independent play and outdoor time. But, at the same time, we can also start to really harness the interactive qualities of these new technologies for our own and our family’s benefit.
So, my recommendation is to start viewing screen time as an opportunity to connect with your child. Below I give some of the main benefits for making this mindset shift.
- Getting to know your child: Digital media can be a window into your child’s burgeoning personality, their likes and dislikes, and while they may not always want to snuggle up and tell you about their day, they likely would LOVE to snuggle up and teach you their favorite game.
- Children blossom under our undivided attention. They feel “seen” and important and loved. So anytime you can immerse yourself into their world, seize the opportunity, whether this is in “real life” or in a digital reality.
- It is a simple way to fill their “cup”. Parents and children do best when they have a ratio of 5 positive interactions for every 1 negative interaction. Having fun, really enjoying yourself with them is a wonderful way to “fill their bank” of positives, and screens provide an excellent tool for that. Use it to your advantage!! You can even keep a running tally of positives to negatives just for screen time. So
- It takes the “charge” out of screens. If all the interactions you have with your child around screens are negative (limit setting, complaints for more time, etc) then they will always be this contentious, hot-button issue. Creating a more positive narrative in your family around screens can actually free you all up from these isolating “stances” or roles you may have backed yourself into. It’s like if I told you that you could never have your favorite dessert or snack again, you’d probably want it more than ever! And you certainly wouldn’t be feeling very positively toward me. On the flips-side, if I told you that you could have some of that favorite food as a part of bigger-picture balanced diet, and I’d even sit down and enjoy it with you, you would probably be feeling pretty good about the food, me, and yourself. I’m really intrigued by the idea of scarcity and abundance and how we can apply it to parenting and screens are the perfect example. I discuss this more in this post here. www.laurafroyen.com/blog/scarcity
- It’s fun! Having fun with your kids, laughing with them, enjoying your time together; these are the things most parents picture when they are considering starting a family. There are so many fun games and apps out there and using them mindfully and with intention can create the same feelings of closeness, connection, and love that other activities can. And this isn’t just about your child and their feelings, it’s about you too. Parenting is hard a lot of the time, so when we have the chance to make it fun we need to seize it!
So, what does this look like in practice? It looks like seeing who can do the silliest SnapChat. It looks like working together to get to the next level on a favorite game. It looks like asking them for help in making your perfect avatar. It looks like scrolling Pinterest to meal plan for the week or to choose the dessert for the next family meeting night. It looks like FaceTiming grandparents you’re missing, or possibly an older sibling who is already off at college. The possibilities are truly endless when you start to open yourself up to the idea that screens and technology can be used mindfully and intentionally to connect with our children.
Laura has her PhD in Human Development and Family Studies with a specialization in Couple and Family Therapy. She left her job as a professor to work more directly with families. Through her blog, Facebook groups, and online services she helps parents reconnect with themselves, each other, and their children and supports families in living more happy, connected, and balanced lives.
I hope you find her suggestions as powerful as I did. Leave a comment below and let me know which one resonated the most with you!