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Do you like to screen?

Hi Everyone,

Recently I found myself hanging out with the kids at home and every couple of minutes (sometimes less) checking the Mobile. Then I started thinking what have I become?:) I'm all day sitting in front of a computer, I browse the web via Mobile when I try to fall asleep and many other occasions during the day. Then I started thinking how can I limit it as it can harm the quality time I have with the kids and take my attention from other activities I enjoy. I also started thinking what example I give my kids. Luckily they are used to watch TV only for 20-30 minutes every evening before they go to bed. But also that could be replaced with me reading a book to them. They are 1.8, 3, 4 years old. Am I being too harsh and I need to accept the fact that we live in modern times? Do you face the same issues? How do you balance screen time as an adult and how do you handle it with your children? What non-screen related activities do you do/recommend. Would love to hear your thoughts.

Moshe.

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27 Comments

  • Feb 26 at 08:22 PM

    Good subject. I have just one kid and, honestly, if I had 3 toddlers I'd need a lot of "mental health time" for myself, in addition to wholesale quantities of "mommy juice". (Seriously, hats off to you and your parenting partner for, like, being alive.) Anyways, here are my random thoughts on the subject.

    1. There is "screen time" and "screen time". Even AAP most recently revised their guidelines because in the past "screen time" meant passively sitting in front of the TV but now it is also includes interactive games, video-chat with grandparents, etc. (AAP has some good tips on this, by the way.) So if you can't eliminate the screen time then try to improve its quality.

    2. As correctly pointed out, this is a problem with adults as much as the kids. I'm not on FB and I've disabled all the intrusive notifications on all mobile devices. This allows me to use them on my own terms whenever I prefer, not when someone decides to send me something. I've missed 0 emergencies so far. So if you're someone who obsessively checks every ping and ding - just stop it. :) Our kid is much older now and does not need constant supervision but when he was a toddler my own screen time either coincided with his or when he was asleep / away. I think you're on the right path if you simply model the right behavior from the start.

    3. "It takes a village to raise a child" - try finding other parents with similar age kids. This could be a local meetup group, parents at preschool, neighbors, etc. When our kid was a toddler, I joined a local "working moms" group on Meetup. Even though I didn't become friends with anyone there and eventually left, they always had some events going. We went to tour a fire station, countless home and park play dates, museums, etc. Good times. We also still maintain relationships with the parents from preschool and meet regularly.

    4. Simply give the kids unstructured play time. Russian parents especially have this obsession with having their kids schedule packed 100% with every single activity possible. It's considered almost a matter of honor and parents would proudly report how tired they are driving their kids from one place to another. But we are such terrible and lazy parents that our kid instead just reads books, roams around the neighborhood or plays with recyclables (true story).

    Best of luck with your parenting! This actually becomes much more of a problem when they're 8 or so and even the school homework is online plus the friends are becoming "screen zombies". The struggle is real. :)

    • Feb 27 at 07:21 AM

      Thanks Jelena!:)

      The toughest time to keep them busy is during the winter. Then we can't go to the playground and spending so many hours inside can become challenging. Otherwise they are pretty sustainable except for Peleg who is the youngest munchkin. I used to only allow them to watch cartoons that taught them English so maybe we should go back to doing so.

      I established a Whatsapp group for Papas in my neighborhood and sometimes we meet in weekends or go on short trips together.

      I hardly have Whatsapp groups that are not on mute so at least that. I think I will put a box in the entrance to my house where I will deposit my phones. Kids also have a Radar that sends them notifications whenever they don't get your attention. And usually the sheep hits the Fan when they don't get the desired attention:).

      I will also try to read more books to them and limit TV for 2-3 times a week. It won't be easy, but I will try :)

      It ain't easy but as they grow bigger it becomes easier:). They have more human Apps installed and they become more independent and play with each other. I'm optimistic:).

      Moshe

      • Feb 28 at 09:01 PM

        It's also a seasonal challenge for us, not just in winter. It can be so hot in summer that no one in their right mind would venture outside.

        I find that toddlers adore the unusual / unexpected things. E.g. you could have a picnic or pretend camping indoors (invite stuffed animals for bonus points). Most kids are also very crafty. Once we made a "car wash" from an empty tissue box, the kid played with it for days. I'm not a very crafty person myself but there are tons of examples online that anyone can follow.

        As Iris Ostrin mentioned, I also very much recommend baking with the kids. For 3-4 year olds the simplest baking soda and vinegar trick can be fascinating. And everyone loves decorating cookies. This is a great recipe that I've used many times with the kids, it's like play-doh: https://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/sheepy-cookies-or-sugar-cookie-dough-to-shape-as-you-wish-402440

        Making your own marshmallows or other candy is fascinating even for the adults.

        • Mar 01 at 03:49 PM

          Baking is the best! My daughter let her son pick out his own his own cookie cutters that they use when making gingerbread cookies. I regularly get treats of "ginger dead men" (skeletons) and "ninja-bread men".

  • Feb 26 at 09:05 PM

    I no longer have small children at home - both of my daughters are grown and each has a son. However, I raised my girls as a single parent just as cell phones were starting to become popular. Unless I am expecting a specific call or a family member is having medical issues, my phones (yes, 2 - one for work and one personal) are always on vibrate. I don't let them interrupt my down-time, including time spent with my husband, daughters, or grandsons. If I'm on vacation, if I'm checking work email I only do it once a day.

    On the other hand, almost all of the reading I do these days is on my tablet - I read a couple of books per week that aren't related to work or school. My knitting and weaving patterns are also on my tablet. So, when I'm focused on those things, it includes "screen time" but I don't consider it as such because it's part of something else I'm doing.

    -Dell

    • Feb 27 at 07:26 AM

      Thanks for sharing Dell.

      I think doing more things in the real world can fill the gaps if you try to reduce screen time. In our days we buy them all sorts of fancy games but I recently discovered what they enjoy most are the same things I enjoyed when I was a kid: Plasticine, coloring, marbles and other old school stuff. My daughter also enjoys going around the house with a tissue "cleaning" stuff:).

      I'll update you all how my challenge to reduce screen time works:).

      • Feb 27 at 02:41 PM

        Good luck, Moshe!

        When my 11 year old grandson was a baby, he and my daughter lived with me. From the time he was a baby, we would read to him. When he was a toddler, one of his favorite things to do was grab one of his board-books and come sit in my lap so I would read to him. We also read to him every night at bedtime.

        He now loves cartoons (mostly Anime) and video games. However, he's on the autism spectrum and has behavioral issues at school so he only gets tv and game time on the weekends, for limited periods of time, and only if he had no physical aggression at school that week. So, screen time becomes a reward instead of an every-day thing.

        -Dell

        • Feb 27 at 05:27 PM

          Yes, I use it as a reward as well. There is a big thing around who is choosing the cartoon. Today I went cold turkey on them and reduced the TV time to 5 minutes:). It was easier than I thought. Let's hope we keep it that way.

  • Feb 27 at 08:37 AM

    Hi Moshe!

    I'm a father of almost-11 and a 8 years old kids, so they are, obviously, interested into all the blinking screens.

    My daughter (the almost 11), got a tablet last year that she uses mainly for school research, a daily shift of 15 mins to speak with her friends and another 15 mins to play with her brother.
    I'm lucky enough my house has always been packed with books (bookworm here, son of a bookworm) so they easily and "automatically" became interested in them and in reading.

    It happens I use my laptop for my "give me some breath" time, even with them around, but I "force" myself to offer them some different activities: Lego and boardgames as well as going hiking in the summer are the most important.


    I know my daughter is somehow emarginated by her friends because she has no smartphone, but she's the first bored by them when during some parties all the girls are focused on their screens instead than playing together or chit chat by person.
    I do not know if it's a good thing keeping my kids somehow away from screens, but I feel they are enjoying more little, almost forgotten activities.


    Side note: when I organize some kind of boardgame parties, their friends totally forget their phones so, I guess, it's our problem as adults and parents :)

    • Feb 27 at 09:00 AM

      Good habits and good on you that you are successful in getting the attention from the kids. It's certainly not easy these days with all the stimulations around. When they become bigger peer pressure becomes challenging. Can already imagine the puppy eyes I would get:). They are already jealous of one and other. I also believe that sometimes being too strict can backfire so finding the balance is the key.

      I think that when we are in front of screens we use less our social skills and they are important not only for kids. I think people miss the old fashion activities which is why the makers movement is booming.

    • Feb 27 at 10:16 PM

      I've noticed the same thing with my kid and his friends. Some kids in his grade already have cell phones, usually that's on top of many other devices. They show off their electronics but now my kid says he doesn't even want to play with them because they're only interested in their screens.

      Our backyard goes out to a small street where many families with kids live and, unfortunately too many kids in my son's grade become practically consumed by their "precious" electronics like Gollum. :(

      • Mar 01 at 08:22 AM

        I think it's a matter of offer: if we offer kids appealing alternatives (boardgames are an example on colorful, funny and the modern ones are great choices as well as DYI stuff), i'm sure kids will forget their devices quickly.

  • Feb 27 at 08:51 AM

    Great topic! I found that when my now 4.5 year-old watched tv in the morning or evening while I did things he became a nightmare. So, I went cold turkey and never went back. He gets to watch TV only on Fridays after nursery (but for a long amount of time), the same goes for my 2-year-old. During the week I've tried to find ways to make the evening fun. Between nursery ending and bedtime, I've tried to make the time as structured as possible. We get home, have dinner, do an activity, play with toys (if time permits), bath, 2 books, and bed. Sundays are for talking to grandparents abroad, Mondays is Arts&Crafts, Tuesdays he has local grandparents time/after school activity, Wednesday is just us playing, and Thursday is baking/cooking activity. Friday and Saturday is family time - we all do stuff together in the evenings. But I know that isn't easy.

  • Mar 01 at 03:00 PM

    Two boys, 6 and 11... Frankly, we let it be. I.e. we are not obsessed by calculating exact time our children pass in front of their smartphones, tabs, TV, etc. Of course, there is some moderation, but it is never strict nor regularized. I have serious doubts that 'our generation' was passing time in a more healthy and/or productive way and the main reason for this is that each generation tends to think this way about their children. 'In my time...' stuff, etc. I'm afraid it could be irritating for children; hence, we try not to exaggerate with these phrases and even if we tell them, we do it more as a comparison to what is going on in our days, rather than a model to be adopted by our kids. A wisely spent time before a screen could be as worthy as reading a book. Of course, the eternal question is what is 'wisely spent', but here, I guess, there are no 'best practices' :) I guess, when taken in moderation, a quiz, a game, a simple browsing, and even, social network (though, here I'm more sceptical), won't do any harm. Don't forget that this 'screen time' can be equally shared with you, just ask.

    As for 'non-screen' indoor activities, we go for social games, e.g. Stratego, Monopoly, 7 Wonders, - you name it. That's for 'family time', but I must say that our kids are quite creative in entertaining themselves from time to time without any help from us or from 21st century devices, like in the 'Good Ol' Days' :)

    • Mar 03 at 10:34 AM

      Hi Eli,

      Also when I was a child my times screen time was already an issue/topic. I guess back then it didn't involve infants (when it comes to mobile devices as TV we had :)). What I'm more concerned about is alienation screen time can cause. It's true that reading a book can cause similar effects but at least you use your imagination/emotions more while doing so. I also fear that being in front of a screen makes you treat other human beings as characters in a movie and not as people with feelings.

      Anyhow, I agree moderation and balance are important.

      Regards,

      Moshe

    • Mar 04 at 07:26 PM

      Well, our poor kid gets a healthy dose of "back in our days" daily. :) I grew up a bit earlier than you, I guess, and in another country. In the USSR, it would be literally impossible for children to spend the whole day in front of a TV (unless they liked watching socialist propaganda) because the state channel was showing some kids programs for 30 min. in the morning, 20 min. in the evening (good-night story for little kids) and maybe 20 min. cartoons somewhere in between if you're lucky. There was a weekly (!) program that showed a full length kids movie, so you would not see a single kid outside during that time.

      These days if you have a TV then multiple designated kids channels run almost 24/7. Our parents had it easy! :)

      • Mar 05 at 08:31 AM

        I grew up in the same country, but apart from TV, we already had ZX Spectrum!!! :) Of course, I speak of teenage years...

  • Mar 04 at 11:10 AM

    Very good topic, Moshe. I think the most important thing is that you are conscious with the use of screen time/smart phones/tablets. In regards to yourself and also in regards to your children. Because as Dell already mentioned, you can also use it for knitting patterns, recipes or reading magazines/books. Tell your children about that. Otherwise they think you are just online for social media or playing online games (what I personally don't like at all). And of course it is also depending on their age. Let them do what is appropriate to their age. It is also useful letting them search something on google as they might need it at school later. I am against strict rules which say "you may only watch tv on the weekends" as I think this leads to strenghten the desire like "I want what I don't get" but of course everyone has to decide on their own. I think the compensation is important. If they do good at school, if they spent time outside with friends, if they did their sports, if they read books, than I am completely fine with letting them watch TV for 30-45 min. also during the week. And I also offer my children (boy 11, girl 9) what Jelena mentioned: give them unstructured play time. Nowadays children's schedule are so packed that it really helps to calm down.
    And for myself - we have the only rule that smartphone etc. are not allowed during breakfast/lunch/dinner times - especially at the table. And in between I make my conscientious choice of putting the phone aside! That is really taking a rest!

    • Mar 05 at 09:46 AM

      Great tips Svea. Thank you. I will work on explaining them what digital appliances are used for other than watching movies.

  • Mar 05 at 09:11 AM

    I don't want to disillusion anyone here, but even kids grown up in families with a love for reading, books, playing "classic" games, sports and outdoor activities might focus heavily on their computers and particularly smartphones in later years (say, age 15 and above), so a broken phone is felt as an emergency... (Of course adults may feel that way, as well.)

    I guess parents should try as best as can (and I like many of the proposals here!) but should also be prepared to recognize and accept that society as such and the role of the generation a kid is part of play a very important role in growing up.

    • Mar 05 at 09:47 AM

      True. We don't live in a void and no one wants his kids to be left out.

      • Mar 07 at 08:57 AM

        Hm, that wasn't my point. I just wanted to point out that helping younger kids to love "valuable hobbies" does not necessarily make them still love those when they get older. – Sometimes it needs much patience to believe that those "good seeds" are still sown.

  • Mar 07 at 11:05 PM

    This is a great topic.
    I have 2 young Boys (pre-teens) and we don't struggle too much with their screentime yet, perhaps more with our own (haha, although I feel it is no laughing matter). I am personally concerned how we as adults are teaching our kids (unconsciously) that our smartphone and the Web in general is indispensable ... At some level, that is actually true, but I for one am trying to do my best to limit the use or explain what limits there are with regards to the day-to-day use of phones, apps, etc. Sometime I practise as I preach, sometimes I fail ...

    I mean : These days a lot of people rely on the weather app to determine when or either if they go outside or not ... And an online review is more potent than an actual conversation with a fellow customer at a restaurant. Crazy, but the true state of the world these days.

    Some general things I think everyone with kids should try :

    • "No devices at the dinner table" is the most obvious one. This is a key moment to learn about everyone's day, or discuss something. No device should come between that.
    • Try having device-free rooms or specific times when you can use them. Devices have a time and place, but not often. Devices have utility but many of the apps rarely do anything more than build up anticipation for something new (on the screen) or keep you hooked ...
    • Having a boardgame night rather than digital games (as mentioned here before). We do things like Memory-games, UNO, Monopoly, basic card games. They love it and they will suggest its recurrence sooner that you would expect.
    • It is important, in my view, to let your kids be BORED sometimes. That is quite hard for kids and parents these days. I might be romanticising things here, but I would proceed from a bored state to do all kids of creative or phantasy-like stuff when I was a kid. It actually helped me in thinking outside the box in some sence. I feel that we sometimes deprive our kids from that skill, by setting up their free time. Now, from a parent's point of view, this is actually hard : they will come nagging and pleading that you play with them or set up some activity (or device) for them!
    • Winter time is pretty hard when it comes to entertaining young kids at home. Again, boardgames, LEGO, arts and crafts are some things you can use. Do you have an old camera or something? Let them make a movie or shoot pictures around the house. Do you have old clothes? Let them dress up. Old cloths? Let them make a camp-site in their bedroom or something. Do you have a playroom where they can go all out with things like clay or plaster? Maybe you have a shed where they can "help you" with some chores (safely)? I actually make up chores sometimes, like "fixing" an old radio or bike tire, potting plants. Baking cookies was mentioned before as well.
      I don't know about your neighbourhood, but we actually go on evening-walks with the kids regularly, even in winter : they think it is great, with some lights and a fluorescent vest when it gets dark. Just go around the block or maybe to a sporting facility where you know of. We sometimes 'visit' a school-friend's soccer practice, just as a means to be outside and have some fresh air. Afterwards, you can warm up nice and cosy inside.


    A lot of my suggestions could be seen as including to or excluding to helicopter-parenting. It's all about how you arrange things. Sometimes (and certainly with smaller kids), you need to give them a little nudge on things to do ... have some basic tools in front of them ... and hopefully then you can let them go off on their own (for the most part). I'd hate to set up everything in a picture perfect way without stimulating their own creativity.

    While writing this, I actually focused on one device, one browser-tab for a substantial amount of time ... wow ... no buzzes, texts, or anything like that to distract me!

    • Mar 10 at 12:01 PM

      :) Great stuff!

      I think using imagination is the most powerful tool that kids have. I can watch my two older ones play for hours in different role games such as mother and father for hours. I will take your advise in creating different scenes in the house to support their imagination games.

      As for chores, it turns out that my girl is more keen about cleaning than my boy but I'm trying to change that.

      We live in a neighborhood that is built from scratch so we don't have yet great walking conditions in the evening. Although we only get home after 2 hours in the park so I think that covers that.

      I'm glad that writing this comment allowed you to stayed focused:)

      I will follow-up on the other great ideas you raised and maybe share pictures:)

      • Mar 10 at 09:06 PM

        Hello

        Glad that I could offer some assistance. We had an 'interesting' Sunday here today, having to entertain our 2 boys inside for a whole day because of heavy storms outside ...

        Now this is not all roses and rainbows but mixing some parent-child quality time along with moments that they have to play for themselves really kept us going through the day ...

        I hope your neighbourhood offers enough attention for interaction on the street in the future. Pedestrian lanes, a wide street so your kids can ride their bike and such ... Maybe even a litte playground. If not, a trip to the park is always a good idea.

        Best of luck to you and your family.

        Nic T.

        • Mar 11 at 07:01 AM

          Hi Nic,

          Thanks for sharing. Actually we have a lot of room to run around as the neighborhood is under construction and we have a huge park. However the weather is quite challenging (in our standards :)). Yesterday I cleared a shelf where the kids can find water bottles and bowls on the path DIY diner/existence:). The older kids fed the little one so I'm happy I'm implementing some of the tips I got here. And they actually fight for doing these chores because they love feeling independent which is nice as it decreases the amount of morning tasks by 10% for me from 1000 to 900:). It keeps them busy and me happier so it's a win-win situation.

          There are multiple Facebook channels that offer ideas for kids' fun activities. I will try them out and update here:). Today I will create a box where we will put different objects and the kids will have to guess what they are by touching them without seeing.

          Regards,

          Moshe

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