This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.
Those are loaded words for parents. There’s conflicting articles that tout the dangers of too much screen time while others ease the guilt by promoting the benefits. The thing about the articles is that they’re just theory.
Last week Comcast invited parenting bloggers to lunch so we could chat with NBC Washington’s Eun Yang about our kids and screen time. If you haven’t met her, Eun Yang is pretty cool. Even cooler when she told me she follows me on Twitter!
The main consensus is that every family situation is different. What works for my family may not work for others.
My kids get a lot of screen time. Some of which I have control over and some I don’t. I work from home so when they’re off from school for holidays (or election day), I still have deadlines. They’re allowed to watch television or play video games on those days as long as they take breaks and make time for reading.
Add to the fact that the boundary of entertainment and education are continually blurred when it comes to technology.
Here’s a quick rundown of when they consume media or play games on a tablet, tv, or computer:
Screens at School
- Sophia’s class uses Chromebooks to complete assignments and turn them into their teacher. This is a required part of her classwork.
- Jaxson’s class has small group time where students play educational games on tablets
- In both classes, their teachers uses a Prometheum board where a lesson is projected on a big white screen. The screen responds to touch so students can interact directly with the lesson.
Screens at Home
At home screen use is broken up into 3 main categories:
- Family movie time. On the weekends we’ll make popcorn and sit down for a movie
- YouTube & Netflix: My kids are obsessed with StampyCat. Every time I hear his “Helloooo” from the other room, I grimace. I caught myself saying “Helloooo” the same way. BUT, I understand why he appeals to them.
- Games on a tablet, game console, or computer: Both kids equally enjoy Minecraft and PBS Kids.
- Enrichment: Sophia and Jaxson are considering careers in game design so they visit Code.org
As you can see, most of their screen time usage is either for educational or enrichment purposes. I’m not going to deny them screen time when they’re learning how to code.
Most of our at home screen time occurs on the weekends. They’re usually not allowed screens Monday-Thursday (school nights) unless Sophia needs it for homework.
How to Balance Screen Time
Talk to your kids. As someone who uses social media as part of my job, I’m hyperaware of internet safety for my kids. I did a good job discussing internet safety with Sophia but I realized I’ve been more lax with Jaxson. Call it the second child syndrome. I’m making more of any effort to discuss the dos and don’ts while using the internet. I highly recommend reading Tech Savvy Mama’s tips on digital safety.
Set parental controls. This is a biggie for me. However, not all services and devices make it easy to set up parental controls and things can slip through the cracks. Which is why educating your kids about digital safety is important.
My kids are only allowed to watch Netflix’s Kids portal unless an adult is present. We have restrictions set for YouTube and Chrome.
During my lunch with Comcast, I learned about their Xfinity X1‘s extensive parental controls in their KidZone. You can set restrictions based on age and movie ratings (R, PG-13, etc) for all your cable content. There’s even restrictions on when they’re allowed to watch tv! I don’t have the X1 system (yet) but based on the demo we saw, it’s very user-friendly. The X1 even comes with a remote that you control using voice commands.
Discuss the importance of balance. We have a no screen rule at meal times. However, I frequently remind the kids to take screen breaks (and they remind me too). They groan about it at first, but eventually find something to do. They become totally immersed in their Lego, crafts, or book and forget that it’s a screen break.
So there you have it. I’m not going to let myself feel guilty about how much my kids use screen time. Screens are everywhere now and more importantly, part of many people’s careers. Sophia and Jaxson are interested in STEM careers and screens play an important part of it.
Set boundaries that work for your family (and your sanity) and don’t feel guilty about it!
What are your family’s rules on screen time?