Thursday, June 12, 2014

"SCREEN TIME" SHAME

I hesitate to write anything at all about "screen time," because things can so often be misconstrued when they come through writing.  I don't often take the time to share opinions on the blog, because I don't want to be controversial in any way.  And I want to come at things from a place of humility that recognizes that I do NOT know everything, and I may turn out to be wrong and change my opinion from time to time. I am a work in progress, just like everyone else.

All of that said, I am going to share a few things that I think.  Feels really scary.

Here's how screen time works around here.  Lily and Bella usually have about an hour of something sometime during our day.  It is not set in stone, and some days would be more than that, and other days there would be no screen time.  It totally depends on what we have going on.  I have tried to structure it so that they do not feel entitled to watch something or expect that it will happen the same way all the time.  Basically, I try to use screen time to my advantage to get things done.

And if they have watched TV during the day, it is unlikely that I would let them play on the iPad.  But when they do play on the iPad, it is almost always something "educational."  Lily is currently working her way through Hooked on Phonics and loving it.

I don't want my children to be glued to screens.  I want them to play and be outdoors and imagine and create and read.  Most of most of our days are geared towards those things.

Today, I was sitting in the waiting room of the twins' therapy with the girls.  We had finished eating lunch, and I had decided to bring the iPad and an old iPhone for the girls to use today.  One woman walked past and said, "What did we do before we had iPads and iPhones?"  The older receptionist lady who is always there, who I really like, piped in with, "We talked to our children."

Now wait a minute.

That was certainly a moment when I got to choose my inner and outer response.  I tried not to take this comment personally or assume that she was implying that I never talk to my children, though that leap would not take much.  She sees us two hours a week at most, and often, we run errands during therapy, so usually it would only be one hour a week.  And I often let them use something while we are there - it is a small waiting area, with a limited number of toys.  So, yes, I use screen time in this situation so I can take my computer and work on photo books and not break up very loud fighting over toys geared towards babies.  It works for me.  I also spend a lot of time talking with my children, just not in the therapy waiting room.  Clearly, I feel a little defensive about this.

We live in an era where children are regularly taking in far too much time on devices or glued to a television set.  I think that most people agree on that.  This is one of those things that can easily become a "Mommy War" of sorts, because it is yet another thing for us to make comparisons on and see how we stack up in the world.

Mothers who use no screen time ever often feel and/or act superior, as if their children are getting a magical childhood from ages past and will have brains far better than those of their screen addicted peers.  Mothers who default to screen time often feel like they don't have other options, and they are just trying to get through the day and stop the whining.  And some of those mothers really don't have other options, because they have to work or are not well equipped to parent and don't know how to do anything else.

In my experience, most people that I run with try to find a balance, which is always the hardest place to live.  It would be easier to just say NO, not ever, than to figure out when it makes sense.  It would be easier to say YES, whenever, because screen time does pacify children.

So living in the middle is where we find ourselves, swinging between the extremes and trying to feel like we are doing the right thing.  Parenting is really hard, and we are constantly having to make choices about what to do.  And there is so much info and so many opinions and oh my goodness, how will my children ever turn out okay?

As we continue to swing, I hope and pray that we find ways to give ourselves and others grace.  I do want to live intentionally and know why I am choosing something.  I don't want to/need to feel guilty every time I hand my child a device or turn on the television.  And I really don't want other people to try to make me feel guilty about it.

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