Why I don't stress about too much "screen time." June 20 2013, 0 Comments

TVkidMy son is an iPhone junkie.  He’s also a Curious George junkie. And YES, I felt tremendous mommy guilt when I allowed my son to start watching a little TV at 15 months (note: the Academy of Pediatrics recommends abstaining from any TV before 2.  One to two hours per day after age 2 is OK).  I’m hoping the damage we inflicted on my son by watching Caillou before his 2nd birthday is minimal. So why all this hullaballoo about limiting screen time? I watched hours of Sesame Street and Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood growing-up without any of this fuss.  As a parent, I’m handed a rule book of things I should and should not do - and if I deviate (even just a tiny smidge), the guilt monsters arrive in full force. The reality (and my strong belief) has less to do with what activities we are doing vs. what we are NOT getting enough of.  I don’t think screen time has changed much since our parent’s generation (yes – the medium has evolved to higher tech gadgets).  What has changed is that we are much less active and more sedentary - which leads to obesity, behavioral challenges, and a whole host of other issues. Most importantly – we are not getting enough OUTSIDE PLAY time.  Numerous research studies show that outdoor play has decreased over-time, girls get less of it than boys, and safety concerns are the number one reason why we are not letting our kids roam free outdoors. My challenge with outdoor play is that it’s not always easy – it’s a hassle. Parks are great but they require schlepping back and forth, and I’d love to make it more convenient to play in my own slice of backyard.   Another alternative is organized play dates or sports, which have a place, but we are replacing the randomness of creative play with the convenience of supervised play (usually by someone else named “coach”). In my quest to play more, I’ve found that investing in a few small changes can make all the difference in helping to facilitate play including:
  • An outdoor play-bucket by the door:  With magnifying glass, bug box, bubbles and chalk
  • Rain boots for jumping in puddles
  • Hats – as I find sunscreen too fussy
  • A small outdoor treasure box for collecting dandelions, pine-cones, acorns & special leaves
  • Adjusting my mindset – that playing outside with my son is just as relaxing as watching TV.  When I need a few minutes to unwind – my first go-to is the TV, not to go outside and I’m actively working to shift that!
  • A comfy place to sit – even a cozy blanket works fabulous
  My assessment is that screen time in moderation is fine – it actually can be a good learning tool for kids.  I no longer obsess or feel bad-momish about how much time my son gets with the iPhone or TV. The real challenge is finding more ways and time to play – especially outdoors.  It’s the only activity I purposefully try to get more of that’s fun AND has amazing health and developmental benefits! P.S.  if you’d like some ideas for HOW TO GET YOUR KIDS OUTSIDE TO PLAY, check out this fantastic guide from the Daily Green.