Goodnight iPad: Cutting Down on Screen Time

January 6, 2012 at 6:57 am (General, Play Time)

I flipped through this book at the counter of our local toy store the other day. It’s a humorous take on the classic “Goodnight Moon,” which my kids and I have read together countless times. And it is funny; an apt exaggeration of how virtuality has replaced so much of what is “real.”

But it makes me a little sad, too. That our world has become so plugged in that there exists a market for this kind of parody. That there exist gadgets for reading and being read to, for listening to music and making music, and for communicating with people without having to see or talk to them.

So many gadgets, so short a childhood.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the convenience of technology as much as anyone. Our family certainly has our share of gadgets. But the idea of “Goodnight iPad” does hit close to home for us.

Me: Goodnight iPad.

JJ: Nooooooooooooooooo!

Not quite, but pretty close. The difference is I’m not smiling when I pry the iPad out of JJ’s hands.

Recently, we’ve been keeping closer tabs on our screen time, both grownups’ and kids’. It has become way too easy to allow some type of screen to keep us entertained on a whim. Between iPhone, iPod, iPad, laptop, and the good-old-fashioned TV, our kids are always only a finger touch away from easy entertainment. When they’re bored, it is only too easy for them to turn on a device instead of playing with toys.

And it’s too easy for me to want to. When days are filled with stress (either theirs or mine) because of school, work, household tasks, or the emotional upheaval of a 5-year-old’s growth spurt, it’s tempting to turn on a device that will allow them to relax, keep them busy, and stop the bickering. Gadgets are always an easy solution to stress.

But when we start to become dependent on them, something needs to change. When I say, “No iPad today,” and they don’t know what else to do with themselves, something needs to change. It means they’ve become to accustomed to a screen as their go-to to-do, and that needs to change.

I used to read the AAP’s recommendations for appropriate amount of screen time for young kids and think, “Oh, thank goodness that isn’t us.” We never used to have issues with keeping screen time to a minimum, but lately the accumulated hours have crept up on us.

So, goodnight iPad. Goodnight TV. Goodnight iPhone-in-restaurants. Goodnight video games of any kind.

Hello conversation. Hello toys and games and books. Hello puzzles and mazes. Hello blocks, Legos. Hello wrestling matches, swords flights, and dress up. Hello sketch books, hello colored pencils. Hello creativity and imagination.

Also hello whining and complaining…at first. In my state of exasperation with our screen situation, I eliminated every trace of them from our day. It may have been a little extreme, but cold turkey seemed necessary. Oh yes, there was withdrawal. The symptoms included angry faces, sad voices, confusion, boredom, chronic whining, and constant shouts from mom to, “Go do something!”

And then eventually…contentment. Cooperation. Ingenuity.

It’s been a few weeks now, since we said “goodnight” to the screens, and the kids haven’t been asking for them. They get up in the morning and go to the pantry for cereal instead of the iPad for games. When they’re bored, they don’t immediately think of watching a show. They go to the bookshelf or the game cabinet. Our arts and crafts supplies are dwindling, the playroom is a happy mess, and JJ always has a toy in his hands.

Will screens eventually creep back into our day? I’m sure. But I’m contented to have come to a point where they don’t seem necessary for engagement. Without the devices, we are engaging more with each other…imagine that! I know that technology affords us the convenience of connecting us to the world, but I see healthier connections made without it. Skip the digital connections please, I’ll take the interpersonal ones any day.

7 Comments

  1. Tonja said,

    Kelly,
    I could not agree with you more! Wonderful post!!!!!!

  2. Hands Free Mama said,

    Thank you for this powerful post.

    18 months ago, I started a journey to let go of distraction and grasp what matters. I was the one addicted to the “gadgets” described in the book that is featured in your blog today. As my face was glued to a screen, I was missing out on life, the laughing, playing, living parts of life with my family. Thank God, I am in “recovery” now. My family is all about living “Hands Free,” which means having designated times to be plugged in and designated times to be connecting with each other. But I will be honest, it is a daily battle to overcome distraction because our society is inundated with it. I share my daily triumphs and struggles to live Hands Free on my site, if you are interested in checking it out. I love the title of your blog. I will be reading more! Thank you for inspiring parents to make a family commitment to connect with each other.

  3. Ali said,

    This was a great post. I totally agree.

  4. Julie said,

    We have a white erase board in our kitchen and we put 10 tally marks every Sunday by each of the kiddos names. There is also one mark for a long movie and 2 marks for short movies. The kids have to agree on the movies together. We have a timer app on the ipad, each turn is 7 minutes, not to long, not to short. They can use all their turns up in one day, if we have time or save them, but no more turns. We use these same turns for Wii, computer etc. setting the microwave timer so I don’t lose track of time.

    No screens before breakfast and most of the time, no screens after dinner. The kids know EXACTLY how many turns they have left because we erase them when they use them. This gives them a visual reminder and cuts out the arguments. It also teaches about saving them as they can carry over week to week. We love this.

    Just an idea that has cut out the fights in our family. We also have NO cell phones, screens, etc at the table, EVER. Even eating out. We adults DO NOT answer calls as our meal is our family time….

    Thanks for the encouragement to continue doing this =) And the reminder that adults play an important modeling role.

    • Kelly said,

      That is a great idea to keep track of screen time and let the children decide how and when to use it! Thanks so much for that helpful tip!

  5. Kimberly said,

    I never thought this would be an issue in our house because I grew up not being able to watch TV on weekdays. But having 2 kids 21 months apart and a bought of post-partum depression for a few months caused me to use TV as a way to have some time to take a breath. Now that things have settled and I’m doing much better I have tried to limit TV time much more but still struggle on some days. The hour before dinner when I’m cooking and the times I am putting the baby down for a nap are the the ones I’m still stuck with. It could be MUCH worse but I’m hoping to make some improvements. Thank you for all your wonderful posts!

  6. Have Kids? Have Technology? Here’s a New Ebook You’ll Want to Read | Parenting From Scratch said,

    […] day I wrote a post about a time in which my children and I were struggling with screen time. I wrote about how we detoxed. Then one day soon after that post came out, Jane Neslen, author of […]

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