When my oldest was born five years ago, I noticed a shift in how parents view screen time. Maybe it somewhat had to do with the fact that I had just entered the parenthood world, but since I had spent the previous four years very immersed in the school system as well as nannying for a local family, I felt like I somewhat had an idea of the screentime trends.
I think what I was observing was 5-10 years ago parents started realizing the long-term effects of screens, smart devices, and video games were having on kids. I kept seeing movement after movement of, “screen-free summer!” and “let’s spend 10,000 hours outside instead of on our devices!”
Which are not bad things to do! Spending time outside is a great investment. But where I find the fault is that we are blaming screens.
I grew up in the 90s and we spent plenty of time playing video games and watching tv shows. We also spent plenty of time running the streets of our neighborhood until the street lights came on. That actually wasn’t a rule for us, but it felt very similar to how I grew up and fitting for the given situation.
Looking back, maybe parents of the 90s would beg to differ, but I think we had a perfect balance back then. We were pirates and explorers by day, and Mario Kart racers by night when it was too dark or cold to be outside. The screens were not the problem!
However, over time the use of screens changed and adapted and been used (and abused) more and more. So when my oldest was born, I felt such shame for using any amount of screens in her life. So much to the point that when we were visiting a restaurant one evening, their menu boards were big TVs, and as an 18-month-old she wouldn’t stop staring at them. I felt like a horrible mom for allowing her to do this. She wasn’t supposed to have any screen time!
Looking back, I realize how ridiculous my thinking was. But with all of the propaganda out on social media (ironic, isn’t it??), I was sure any time spent in front of any screen for my child was certainly melting her brain.
Over the years we tried many different approaches to screen time. My favorite was physically putting the remote in my child’s hand. I think the biggest downfall with this, though, was that there wasn’t a countdown or physical timer she could see that would indicate how much screen time she had left for the day, so she wasn’t able to properly time manage her TV access, which led to frustration. However, giving myself a break and allowing screen time in our home was a good thing overall for us.
Around the time my oldest turned 5, the idea of video games popped up. My initial thoughts were, “No. Absolutely not. We don’t need those in our house.” But then I was introduced to an Instagram account that changed my thinking.
@TheGamerEducator is changing the way we think and look at screen time and video games. She has shown facts and research on why video games are good for kids! She also promotes scheduled screen time and points out why kids are asking for screen time in places like Disneyland or the zoo, and why we don’t need to be upset about it.
It gave me the right push to add simple video games into our home. And believe it or not, it did not cause instant tantrums or overstimulation. In fact, it caused A LOT of problem-solving skills to be utilized. It caused great fine-motor development. It gave my kids the opportunity to use their brains to move a joystick to control an object on the TV, something they’ve never had to do before, but something that takes a good amount of brain power in the beginning to use.
And in the end, my kids are still spending the majority of their days outside running the streets and inside playing board games and toy trains. But they also have some fun, scheduled screen time as well, and it’s been amazing for our household.
The amount of education kids can pick up from video games is incredible. However, please be wary and not buy into “this is an educational game.” If you want more information on what makes something an educational game or show, I would strongly suggest diving deep into @TheGamerEducators resources she has available because she can give you more information on it than I ever could!
So let’s stop giving screens and video games a bad wrap. They’re doing so much more for us and our children than we even realize!
Are you a video game family? What does screen time look like for you?