I’ve written many a times about my dislike of children having too much screen time. I’ve noticed, however, that a new front has opened-up in the battle for my kids’ eyes.
When Helen was younger, the issue was keeping her away from cartoons on the television. It wasn’t that much of a struggle, all things considered.
Helen is now eight year’s old. Her ability to use technology has improved and when she learns a new skill, her four-year-old sister, Izzy, is not far behind.
It’s no longer cartoons that are the issue. The issue is limiting the amount of time my kids spend playing on apps, computer games, watching YouTube videos and films.
The other day I was speaking to a mum with kids of a similar age. She summed up the situation perfectly:
“I tell my kids to get off one screen and they do it, but a few minutes later I find them using another screen. A few minutes after that, I find them using another one and then another and another.”
I don’t want to give you the wrong impression. There isn’t an eternal supply of wireless devices in our house. I also ensure the kids spend time outside being active every single day.
I’m also not opposed to kids have access to tech. I’m taking steps to introduce my kids to coding and there are some fantastic, fun and educational games out there for kids. I merely believe children need to understand there are limits and why they are in place.
We’ve had a great summer holiday spending time in Scotland, camping for a couple of days, going on play dates and so on. Even so, I have, on a few occasions, felt that screen time has been an issue over recent weeks.
After watching some television, I have told my kids to go and do something else. After a few minutes of quiet, I’ve then found them playing Minecraft or Super Mario.
The options and temptations are there and they are multiplying because they are surrounded by technology. It’s easy entertainment and I simply don’t want them spending too much time in front of screens.
Of course, us mums and dads don’t always set the best example ourselves. The other day I took my kids to have a bite to eat.
A dad and his child were sat at a neighbouring table. The father was playing on his mobile phone for the entire meal while his kid was using a tablet. I’m not simply talking about while waiting for their food, but while eating as well. The sight made me feel genuine sadness that this guy wouldn’t break away from his screen and pay attention to his kid.
We are, of course, in the midst of the summer holidays. The kids are at home a lot more so the normal routines aren’t being followed. This leaves more scope for the kids to entertain themselves with screens and I’m also probably a lot more sensitive to it.
Even so, I have taken some drastic action to try and remedy this issue. I’ve discovered a fantastic app called Freedom. It allows you to set a timer and lock down either the entire internet or specific websites.
The fascinating thing is how the kids react when they suddenly discover YouTube isn’t available to them. I’d expected moaning or whinging but they simply saunter off and find something else to do without complaint.
As much as I love our Google Home, I have disconnected it from our Chromecast. Helen had figured out she could get the Home to Chromecast videos and programmes to the television and I’m afraid I wasn’t having that. It wasn’t so much television programmes that bothered me, but how Mrs Adams and I could monitor the YouTube videos she was watching if she was selecting them via the Home.
On the plus side, the Home also plays music. It’s a delight to walk into the kitchen dancing because they’ve chosen some songs on Spotify and are having a great time listening to them. It shows that you have to strike a balance with tech.
Thus far, these steps have worked well. It has led to a reduction in the amount of time the kids have spent using screens and they’ve been more creative.
The fact apps and games have crept in where cartoons used to rule should come as no surprise. It’s merely a sign of my kids getting older and Mrs Adams and I have to accept and adapt to this reality before it becomes a major problem.
Do you find your kids drift from screen to screen if you don’t intervene to stop them? If so, what steps have you taken to monitor and limit the screen time your kids get? I’d love to know how you do it.