Recently, one of my friends posted on Facebook that her kids think she is the absolute worst when she makes them turn off the screens this summer. She posted her frustration that it’s a constant battle and that she is tired of being the bad guy when she wants them to “play.” She received a myriad of responses, as posts like this often do, and most were in agreement with her and said they faced the same attitude at their house. She got a few funny ones–hide the chargers, throw them outside with a ball and don’t let them come back in until they kick it. And then there were a couple that I felt were a bit harsh and asked her to look at her own screen time.
Okay, okay, I just posted a contributed post about being a good role model on the roads, and I don’t disagree that parents are role models, but come on…we are the parents. If we want to binge watch Netflix shows, we can. And in the same breath, we can tell our kids to get off their screens. We. Are. The. Parents. We are in charge.
People also like to start the screen time conversation with…”Well, when we were kids, we couldn’t wait to get outside.” Everyone nods their heads and tells some unbelievable story about how they received 39 stitches on their knees and were right back on their bikes an hour later. True, but that’s because we didn’t want to watch soap operas and Dynasty with our parents. (Love Boat was a different story.) We didn’t want to be forced to clean our room again or listen to our moms talk on the wall phone to Aunt Ida for an hour about all her ailments. We didn’t have Netflix or 24-hour Disney shows or tablets with tons of games or the ability to chat with our friends even while our moms talked to Aunt Ida on the phone. When we say, “Well, when we were kids…”, we are comparing apples to oranges, and that never does anyone any good.
Yes, tablets and streaming shows can be addictive. Yes, too much screen time is not good–for anyone. More studies are in agreement with that statement than in supporting screen time. I also face the battle at my house with KT’s tablet. And I have friends who claim their children only watch one TV show a day and have never touched an iPad–well, bully for them. I find it terribly hard to believe, especially when it’s 100 degrees outside, and you don’t have a pool in your backyard, and your children no longer take a nap, and you have to fix something for dinner, and your kids are tired of their toys, but…maybe you really have an iron backbone.
What I’m saying (yes, what is she saying?)–most parents today are facing this same “screen time” dilemma. SO let’s share what we realistically do with screen time. At my house, KT is usually on her tablet two hours a day on the weekends (maybe longer if I have a freelance project to do) and she probably watches an hour of TV, along with watching Master Chef or Nailed It with me. So let’s say she averages three-four hours on the weekends. When she has school, it is lower–probably one hour on the tablet and one hour of TV. Is that too much? Probably.
Is that all the screen time I have? Not even close, especially since I am a writer. Am I going to let Katie say to me: Well, you have 8 hours of screen time and watched 5 episodes of Frasier, so turn off the screen. Umm, no. I. Am. The. Parent.
I don’t stop drinking wine in front of her, and I’m not going to. She can’t cuss. She can’t stay up past her bedtime. She can’t eat as many snacks as she wants. Can I do all those things? YES! Can I teach her moderation and responsibility? YES!
Maybe what we should be telling each other is…hey, it’s hard. Our parents thought it was hard, too. Every generation has had their own struggles, concerns, and worries. Screen time and not being able to have unsupervised outdoor play are two of ours. You can do this. Your kids may say you are terrible, but you know you’re not. You know you’re doing the right thing. Give them a hug and a kiss and tell them life isn’t fair, and you’re not their friend. You’re their parent and you love them.