There’s More to Life Than Screen Time
I read a lot of single parenting blogs and listen to a fair number of podcasts. One of the hot-topic, hot-button issues I constantly hear people talking about is screen time. How much is too much? Is screen time ruining your child’s creativity? How do you control screen time in the digital age? There are lots of questions and endless answers to all of them. I thought I’d throw my two cents in!
The screen time ratio
I’ll preface my thoughts by explaining how screen time works in our house. For every hour of screen time my daughter has, it’s offset by an hour without screens. So, if she wants to watch a two-hour movie, she needs to do something else for two hours. That could be homework, or chores, or reading, or even playing with a friend. As long as it doesn’t involve a screen, it counts.
This is based on the TV rule I had growing up as a kid. Granted, there are a lot more screens around now—TV, tablets, computers, smartphones, etc.—but the principle is still the same.
Why the ratio?
As someone who studies the human body intently, I’ve come to realize just how bad our excessive reliance on screens is. We crane our necks looking at smartphones, causing back problems. Our eyes suffer from prolonged exposure to bright lights and fast-moving images. Our bodies get used to a sedentary lifestyle. It’s a slippery slope if not controlled.
I’m not so much opposed to screens as I am in favor of taking care of your body. And, for kids especially, screen time and wellness are often at odds. It’s not about limiting screen time, it’s about exemplifying wellness and self-care.
Lack of screens prompts exploration
I’m a big fan of getting out there and doing things. Anything! Even going for a walk has tremendous benefits for your mind and body. When you get away from the screen, you quickly realize there’s a big world out there. For kids, I think that’s key in developing confidence and good socialization habits. It also encourages adventure. There’s a lot the tangible world can give you that a screen can’t, and it’s imperative for kids to get comfortable with the world they can touch.
One of the main reasons for the 1:1 screen time ratio is to help my daughter discover and embrace creative habits. You can’t learn an instrument if you’re too busy watching Minecraft videos on YouTube. You’ll never discover your passion for painting if your hands are occupied with a Nintendo Switch. Imagination and creativity come from the tangible world, and only when you explore them.
This isn’t to demonize screens! You can absolutely learn to play an instrument with the help of YouTube or find a love of painting by viewing online galleries. The important thing to remember here is that screens aren’t the focus—they’re the complement to tangible creativity.
Do I think screens are the devil and the worst thing in the world for kids? Not by a long shot. Do I think they need limits and some control? Sure. Really, I think what matters most is a healthy mix of digital exposure and real-world grounding. If my daughter wants to take up birdwatching and log her birds in an iPad app, so be it!