No Shame Unplugging Screens

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By Melissa Ford

Coach - Personal & Business

My son and daughter, ages 23 and 22 respectively, were born before the first web page, before hotmail, smartphones, iPods, iPads, Twitter, IM, Kik, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr. . . They even attended middle school without the presence of Facebook. 

Jaw-dropping isn't it? 

Reflecting back, I realize that it was a good thing. 

Limited access to screens made life simpler for me and my kids. 

Back in the day, managing screen time simply meant hiding the TV remote and unplugging the Nintendo 64 controllers. Of course, my children's responses to my limit setting weren't always pretty: flailing of arms and legs, gnashing of teeth, accompanied by nagging, weeping and begging. But, I must admit weathering those storms was easier because screens didn't travel, giving children access to everyone and everything by merely reaching into their pocket.  

Today's parents have more to contend with, more to intercept, outsmart, negotiate, prohibit and constrain. I never once tucked my sweet little one into bed and then latter found her under the covers, FaceTiming her best friend or texting into the wee hours of the morning or spending endless hours stalking her cousin's best friend's older sister at a college party on Facebook! What? 

How many times do I have to tell you? Turn that thing off! GO TO SLEEP! 

Would you like those threats to end forever?
ould you like to manage screens with greater ease regardless of the time of day?

You can. 

It's our job as parents to set up an environment that best supports our children's mental, emotional, physical and spiritual development. Kids need time to sleep, to think, to connect with others face-to-face, to physically move, to be creative. They need time to BE. 

By setting limits around screen time (including nighttime), you optimize your child's ability to learn and grow. 

For effectively managing screens at night, become the keeper of all technology by following these easy steps: (1) Establish a time all technology gets checked in at night. (2) Place technology in a secure place (think your bedroom), and (3) Wind down the evening being together, enjoying your child and then . . . 

Kiss your child goodnight, tucking him/her into bed sans their favorite gadget(s).

Some parents have even extended this rule to include homework time or when their children's friends come over to play or on vacation or at the dinner table or . . . 

Screens are a powerful tool for learning, communicating and socializing but how and when we use them determines whether they enhance or diminish our lives



Reader Comments

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Dave Coulter  

Posted: January 11th, 2013 8:36 AM

I'd like to unplug myself from the screen ; )

Melissa from EmpoweredParent  

Posted: January 8th, 2013 12:26 PM

We do want our kids to be ready for the screen-driven world, but we want to raise media literate children. It's important to understand how brain development is impacted by excessive screen usage - directly impacting attention spans, ability to self-regulate, analyze and solve problems, develop imaginations. . .

Pro Screens  

Posted: January 7th, 2013 1:49 PM

I know exactly what you mean, Susan--we must choose our parenting battles carefully! My take is that our culture is far too sensitive to the rise of technology and kids are natural adopters. It's no big deal. Part of being a good parent is making sure they are ready for the world that WILL be screen-driven in the future. For my kids, I want it integrated into their lives totally. Mine knew how to talk on a cellphone, play dvds by themselves, and work a computer keyboard before age 2.


Posted: January 7th, 2013 1:22 PM

And Violet, I really don't know where to start with your post. I won't home-school, and my kids have always had access to unsupervised screen time. Not unlimited. Also, I have seen a difference in my kids--the older one didn't have access to e-games, younger one did. The younger one is better adjusted. Go figure! I think that's the difficulty with parenting. There is no one-size fits all. They are all different.


Posted: January 7th, 2013 1:20 PM

If my kids hadn't had TV or movies before age 2, I would have ended up in the looney bin. I think it really is a question of warring priorities.

Pro Screens  

Posted: January 7th, 2013 9:51 AM

Thanks for the recommend, Melissa. I write a lot about gender issues in parenting and particularly enjoyed the reviewer who mentioned character branded vs generic themed products. May have to give it a read just for that.

Melissa from EmpoweredParent  

Posted: January 7th, 2013 9:11 AM

Thanks Pro Screens. Also, check out Gloria DeGaetano's book Parenting Well in a Media Age.

Pro Screens  

Posted: January 7th, 2013 8:20 AM

I usually recommend Lisa Guernsey's "Screen Time: How Electronic Media--From Baby Videos to Educational Software--Affects Your Young Child" for parents with 0-5 yr olds especially. She goes into detail about how little scientific research there is to back the AAP viewing guidelines and esp. how to judge educational content. It's a very realistic, positive approach to keeping kids plugged in responsibly.

Melissa from EmpoweredParent  

Posted: January 6th, 2013 10:11 PM

Yes, moderation is the key. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, one or two hours of screens per day is recommended and children under 2 - no screen time.

Pro Screens  

Posted: January 6th, 2013 6:39 AM

Great topic, thanks! I often write about this for a parenting blog myself. I take a policy with my kids that electronics are no different than any other tool or activity. I don't limit screen time, but will shift their focus if they spend more than a couple hours doing any one thing. But the same goes for the couch or the library, too. Moderation is key.

oakparker from Oak Park  

Posted: January 5th, 2013 9:59 PM

You gave some great common sense tips, but as someone older than you, I embraced the tech age and encouraged our now 40-something children to use tech stuff. I didn't have to contend with cell phones or tablets tho. As a child, I was an avid reader and once the lights were out, out came the flashlight and the book under the covers. The technology changes, but not the desire by children to circumvent their parents.

Violet Aura  

Posted: January 5th, 2013 1:17 PM

Susan, not to be rude but how did you come to the conclusion that this is what the article is intimating? To the contrary, the author is putting the onus on the PARENTS! And it's exactly right. How can any competent parent, in good conscience, allow their children to use devices without any supervision?! I don't even think kids should have tv sets in their rooms! As for the overscheduled, overworked angle, it shows the need for homeschooling, not to mention spending free time MOVING!


Posted: January 5th, 2013 12:24 PM

I used to be against screen time. I'm not anymore. Kids have no time to do anything or to hang out with friends, with all the homework they have. So they have little bits of time that they fill texting their friends. It's not a moral failing on their part.

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 2nd, 2013 10:37 PM

I spend a lot of time on public transit. I always bring a newspaper or a book. Most people don't. They sit, blank and inactive for the duration of their trip...except for those with digital devices that enable them to use this otherwise dead time to connect with friends. Young kids who need to go to bed are a different issue, and I remember my mom used to make me turn off the light so I wouldn't read late into the night. Screens or pages, this is something moms have to do. Overall, I'm glad for mobile devices...and I actually feel a lot safer knowing that everyone has a camera in their pocket.

Virginia Seuffert from Oak Park  

Posted: January 2nd, 2013 6:20 PM

Thank you for this wonderful column. The amount of screen time that too many children get has terrible implications for their physical and emotional health, and their educations. I hope many parents have the courage to stand up to their children and follow your advice.

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