Ok. Be honest with me. How many hours per day do your kids spend staring at a screen? One? Two? Eight?? (If it’s zero, I’m not sure we can be friends.)
I’m embarrassed to admit that the answer in our house is way. too. many. I don’t even want to put a number on it, because I’m afraid that if I actually calculated the combined total screen time in our house, my eyes would spontaneously combust. It’s like looking at your bank account. Do you really want to know what your ‘occasional’ coffee run costs you each month? Do you really need to know what you spend on the vet-recommended dog food you’ve been guilted into buying? (Most people would say, yes, I do, because budgets. Maybe I’ll address my dreadful but improving budgeting skills in another post.)
When our first daughter arrived, my husband and I were resolute about the type of parents we would be. (Sanctimonious, even, which is a parenting trait actually included in the first-time-parent package upon discharge from the hospital, along with the baby blanket and a pamphlet on lactation. Luckily, it’s quickly eroded by an overwhelming sense of in-over-your-headness.) Nope, no TV, not for our precious papoose! That was easy for the first twenty-four months, and then our second daughter was born. By that time, I was begging my teeny toddler to zombie-out to Treehouse while I unsuccessfully attempted to soothe her colicky sibling.
Then came baby #3. Then came tablets. Then came denial.
Whenever I see an article or hear a newscast about the affects of screen time on those tiny eyes and developing minds, I wince. And walk away. Just as I do when I hear about sugar intake, UV damage, fatty liver disease… Denial and I are old friends. We go way back. We meet up every now and again for a cup of coffee (or six).
You don’t have to look far to find facts on screen time. Research is published in spades about the era of phones, tablets, computers, gaming and the digital natives who will come of age knowing nothing else. I’ve already been left in the dust when it comes to technology. My daughter’s Kindergarten class interacts regularly and expertly with their classroom smart board. Kids not much older than mine are already fluent in the wizardry of the wired world. I have yet to master the DVR.
Yesterday my youngest daughter woke before the sun rose with a nasty little stomach bug. I decided to keep everyone home from school, assuming that by noontime we would all be cradling toilet bowls. My oldest daughter was disappointed to miss a special day at school, but I evaded her tears with the promise of an all-day movie marathon. By the afternoon, I felt wretched. Not just because my stomach was rumbling, but because the credits were rolling on our third animated feature and we hadn’t seen the sun for hours. Luckily, my husband arrived in time to crack a window and take the girls outside for some air.
It’s not every day that we’re screening triple features, but we could do better. I could do better. Because let’s face it, I’m the one who’s controls the access. I have all the passwords, I pay for the Wi-Fi, I’m the one who buys some peace and quiet with pixels and Pixar. I probably can’t eliminate screen time in our house, but I can do a better to regulate it. There, that feels good to say.
Now. Be honest with me. How many teaspoons of sugar do your kids consume in a day?