Unlimited Screen Time - 3 Reasons It's Not as Bad as You Think

Everywhere around us qualified experts, parents and teachers tell us that screen time is bad for our children.

I used to be one of those teachers.

I heard it all throughout my teacher education:

‘No screen time until WELL after 2 years old’ or ‘when counseling parents about screen time, encourage them to not allow more than 30 minutes a day.’

Obviously this made sense because of the culture we are in. We never see kids playing outside, in the classroom not all children can read by Kindergarten and childhood obesity is reported to be on the rise. The obvious culprit must be excess screen time.

Then I became a mom.
Unlimited Screen Time may not be as bad as you think for your kids. Why you may want to reconsider screen time.

Everything changed. I ignored most of the advice from ‘experts’ to create my own parenting path. I blatantly went against most of the advice other parents were giving me. Most of all about the infamous screen time.

I didn’t make this decision lightly. Remember, I have a ton of formal education from the experts on the problems associated with early and excessive screen time and the multitude of reasons why it should be avoided. And I can certainly have a heated debate with myself about my reasoning. But that is all theory. In reality, my reasoning as to why we don’t limit screen time is more practical.

3 Reasons it's Not so Bad

  1. No zombie kids. When we went to our first dentist appointment a couple weeks ago, they had Daniel Tiger on the TV (which happens to be a favorite show in our home). My daughter looked up at the TV, acknowledged the show was on and decided to look at all the new books in front of her instead of an episode of Daniel. Meanwhile I noticed a boy, around 7 or 8, on the floor in the middle of the office staring at the TV up on the wall.

    A little girl was trying to push a cart around the room and couldn’t get by the boy glued to the TV. His mother tried to get his attention in an attempt to move him but he didn’t even respond, so the mom gave up. A little while later, after I had started a conversation with the other parents, the boy jumped up and yelled out.

    “Excuse me, can you not talk so loud? I can’t hear the TV. You are being very rude to me.”

    He immediately sat down and went back into ‘zombie mode’.

    The mom apologized profusely and explained they don’t let him watch TV and it’s a special treat when he goes out.

    I don’t want that to be my child. Ever.
  2. It can be an educational tool. When I was in the classroom, my favorite surprise was when we had the rare opportunity to bring technology into our education. I loved to be able to stray away from the standardized curriculum and provide a different set of skills, knowledge base and, let's be honest, a fun way to learn. I would bring in apps, videos, interactive games, even episodes from popular TV shows like Sesame Street, Dora and others.

    Admittedly, I didn’t take much time to watch children’s TV shows back then to understand what could possibly be out there for education based TV and apps. I do now.

    In our home, we watch a majority of PBS shows and movies. On most of the children’s channels, the shows provide an educational component for your kids. Even in most children’s movies you can find some educational direction. You just have to look for it and assure that it aligns with what you want your child to know.

    Side note: My daughter loves watching Chopped...I consider it an educational show. She usually gets her chopping board out and proceeds to ‘make us dinner’. ;)

    When you take the time to sit and watch these shows with your kids, you will be able to see some of the learning that takes place and help expand upon it. You can also use the shows to your advantage in your home by discussing the topics, reinforcing routines, or talking about what they watched to make sure they are understanding the concepts
  3. Mommy (or Daddy) time. Think about all the things we as moms and dads need to accomplish in a day. When I put on a show for my daughter, I can do the dishes, switch the laundry, go to the bathroom or even take some time to work on my blog or household computer tasks, even just rest for a few minutes. Not to mention, we’re having a new baby. Being able to give her something to keep her occupied and educate her, while I need to tend to a screaming baby, will be a huge relief. I know she is engaged in the show, so she won’t be wandering around the house or getting into something she shouldn't be. Even if it is for just a short time, that may be all I need.

Some people scoff when I tell them we don’t limit screen time.

‘You don’t let her play outside enough’

‘She will never excel in school’  
‘You don’t want to spend that much time with your kid’

‘You mean you use the TV as a babysitter.’

I have heard it all. But none of it bothers me.

My daughter is a bright girl who loves to play outside, help out around the house and read books. She prefers to play soccer with her dad, read books in the rocking chair or go swimming at the Y to watching TV any day. And I attribute this to starting screen time early, getting her used to the TV and other screens so it’s not something she craves; it becomes a part of the world around her.

If you’re thinking about introducing more screen time, do it slowly.
  • Give your child choices of what they get to watch.
  • Use it as a timing tool - ‘when this show is done, it’s time to get ready for nap’
  • Watch with them. Yes it seems like an impossible 30 minutes sometimes, but it allows you to reinforce the educational topics in your everyday life.

Going against the mainstream can be hard. The experts can make you feel like you are an inferior mom or you are going to mess up your kids forever. Everyone has an opinion, but ultimately you know your kids. For us, not limiting screen time works well. For other families, it may not work. I’m sharing our strategy to encourage others that may be in the similar situations and to maybe open the eyes of those parents who feel they want to ignore the ‘experts’ and just need encouragement.

I would love to hear from you! You can leave a comment below or email me.
Just remember to THINK before you type :) You can disagree, but please be kind.


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5 comments

  1. I love this. That is such a fascinating perspective, Stephanie. I'll admit, I'm one of those moms that is super strict about watching TV. My kids get to watch a half hour educational show 2 or 3 times a week, plus we have family movie night on Saturdays where the kids get to agree on a movie to watch as a family. Rules don't apply when we're away from home. When we visit family, my kid watch back to back movies and they totally turn into glassy-eyed zombies. Part of me kind of likes it, because I get to chat and visit without kids fighting or constantly needing attention, but part of me finds it TERRIFYING. I've been thinking about easing up on the restrictions, especially since we have a newborn. I don't think I'm brave enough for a free-for-all, but this definitely makes me feel better about increasing the amount they can choose to watch a bit. :)

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    1. Thanks! Easing up would be a good thing - especially with a newborn. You do need to ease into it - so no free for all....yet :) I have to admit - it's not a free-for-all here either all the time. And now she actually puts limits on her time herself. Good luck and email me if you need any moral support :)

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  2. We watch a lot of Nick Jr shows. Each one actually tells you what the educational aspect of the show is at the beginning. I use them to explain things in a way she can grasp. "Remember when Norville (Wally Kazaam) was afraid of the dark, but then he realized it wasn't scary, it was just different?" We use Sophia the first as a role model for how to be nice to others, and Bubble Guppies has all sorts of learning activities. It has really helped expand her vocabulary. Even Elmo has helped. Lily points to stops signs and says "octagon!" which I personally think is awesome at 2yrs old. She sings the songs and dances to the music. None of this has stopped her love for "outside," books or "art projects." I think it can be great!

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    1. Yes! I love that about Nick Jr. shows. We use the shows in the same way - Daniel Tiger feels frustrated too - we sing the song and she asks for help. Now she sings the songs unprompted and can solve her own problems. I love when they start to put together the concepts they learn through shows and apps! You sound like you have a very smart little girl on your hands :) Good job mama!

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  3. I agree. You should hear my 11 year old rattle off facts about the solar system he has learned on the internet. He watches programming I never would have guessed he would watch like NASA videos on YOUTUBE. He also has a reading level of a high school Sr. So Sponge Bob never was enough for his learning speed.

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