Why my techy family limits screen time for little’uns?

195- in the grass

Today while out for an amble at a beach by the bay, I was talking to a friend about how many top execs here in Silicon Valley (just down the road from where I live) chose to bring up their kids in low/no tech homes.

I don’t see it as a contradiction, quite the opposite, it makes a lot of sense to me. We are not ‘Silicon Valley Executives’ but still I can relate. We are a pretty tech-oriented family. I spend a lot of time online blogging and managing my facebook page and my husband is a Software Engineer. I think we (people immersed in technology but who chose to emphasise other things in early childhood) are saying we trust our kids to pick up all that fun stuff, in a snap. We feel confident to be able to guide them through the world of technology in a few years and that they will be soon teaching us… but in the meantime, we want them to have a chance to build up a real, enduring love for some of the things that are not so ‘easy’ to form a lasting relationship with, like nature, social-games and free-play, literature, crafting and silence. These are the things that NEED to be cultivated now, imo.  These are the things that take time, energy and effort: to create our own fun (in free play), to learn to interact with others joyfully and respectfully and to *want* to spend more time outdoors. These things don’t come automatically. They need to be nurtured.

For me it is a given that kids will love cartoons, for example. No effort required on my (or their) part to ‘learn to love’ TV. Plus research shows that even seven year olds never exposed to technology catch up with their computer-savvy friends in no time, given a chance [I read this but cannot for the life of me remember where – but there is plenty of other juicy stuff in the links below]. But to develop a life-long connection to the environment, to cultivate the ability to be at ease with oneself in stillness, to practice being truly creative by leading in our own projects, to learn to think critically and independently – these are things we need to put our conscious attention into, if we want these qualities and skills to flourish in our children. Technology will always appeal. It is the other stuff that needs work.

At the same time, while I understand some of the unhelpful effects of screen-time on young kids (especially under the age of two) I do not think TV, video games or phones are evil. Far from it – I love them. But I think they are ‘easy’ and sometimes it is the slow, silent, natural stuff that gets left behind in the rush and it is those things I want to honour for now. I want my daughter’s childhood memories to be filled with picnics and family time, great ‘construction projects’ and little theatre shows she put on for us – the kind of stuff that you really only get to when the TV is off – most of the time, at least.

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How about you, what balance works for your family and why?

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More here:

  1. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/technology/at-waldorf-school-in-silicon-valley-technology-can-wait.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
  2. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090113074419.htm
  3. http://www.ahaparenting.com/ages-stages/toddlers/toddler-preschooler-tv-computer
  4. http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1882560,00.html
  5. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/10/24/smarter-kids-and-how-they-got-that-way.html
  6. http://commercialfreechildhood.org/blog/youre-not-alone
  7. http://www.janetlansbury.com/2012/07/how-to-break-your-toddlers-tv-habit/

8 thoughts on “Why my techy family limits screen time for little’uns?

  1. I love this article! It so clearly states what I fumble when trying to explain to friends. Tech isn’t evil, but there’s plenty of time for that later in life. Right now they need to be playing in real life!

  2. This explains perfectly to my family/friends why we are cancelling (the VERY addictive) Netflix! (we have no cable either, so we’re down to much less addictive stuff, especially if we don’t use the computer! (…..and yes, I’m a webdesigner, so I am one of those tech-y types.)

    • Yeah, my husband is a programmer and even he can see that Nica turns into a ‘zombie’ (in his words) when she goes on the iPad so he is right in there with me, making sure 99% of her time is spent having real rather than ‘virtual’ fun! :)

  3. Our daughter watches TV the old-fashioned way, on the television and in short increments. I like watching TV to relax so I don’t want to keep her away from it entirely. We live overseas so Skyping with the grandparents is a must. But we don’t give her a phone or iPad for games or watching videos while in the car, at restaurants, on planes, etc. She has to read, draw, make pleasant conversation, or anything else if she gets bored. Yes, it’s harder for us but she’s learning to entertain herself. Plus, she’s a butterfingers. She’s already destroyed a laptop, cell phone, and a Kindle. We don’t want to give her expensive things to break.

  4. Yeah, I have mentioned elsewhere that I do NOT lump Skype in with other screen time. For me skype is a modern version of the phone. It is about building connection and closeness with loved ones who live far (across an ocean and on a different continent, in our case). It is interactive, children do not (generally) become passive viewers expecting to be entertained by it. In our case, I even use skype to ask my mom to ‘babysit’ while I take a shower!! My kid is old enough that I can leave her while I shower but it is often fun for her to have grandma there reading books to her or singing together while I wash (although she’ll otherwise entertain herself quite well, most days, too).

    But yes, I totally agree with you. Videos and games should not be the first, go-to thought for boredom relief in cars, planes and shopping carts. What is that about, anyway? Yes to making the effort and learning to entertain herself through reading, drawing, chatting, looking out the window, playing games, day dreaming, etc… :)

    Sorry about your string of destroyed electronics, though. And thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment!


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