Screen time is part of the modern learning diet. Along with books, music, toys, experiences, and discussions in the car or at the dining room table, our children learn from videos, apps, and social media. So it behooves us to give screen time thoughtful consideration, especially in 2020. TV, computers, and tablets are assets we can capitalize on while we navigate the uncharted waters of living in a Global Pandemic.
The parameters we have for learning are grossly shifted away from normal. We can't go to the pool. We can't go to friends' houses. We can't go to the children's museum. We aren't even supposed to go to the playground...and it is too hot to go anyways. So it is no wonder that we are turning to technology.
I do not think that recommendations from pediatricians should go ignored. Healthy balance between time spent outdoors when possible, reading, doing puzzles, playing games, and all the other creative ways our families spend time together are still important and valid. But our current reality is stressful and it is OK to think way outside the box and explore all the resources at our disposal.
Setting no limit on screen time might sound intimidating and ill-advised. I myself have been exploring the effects of screens on my children for nearly a decade. We have gone cold turkey, reaped the rewards, and gradually added it back in and negotiated as we grow.
How To Explore Unlimited Screen Time
On your own:
- Imagine the worst-case scenario. This might take some time. Ponder what concerns you the most. Is it screen addiction? Is it feeling judged by other parents? Is it about your relationship with your child? Is it guilt that you should be able to offer better provocations for enriching your child's education? Spend the time you need to consider your feelings about allowing unlimited screen time.
- Imagine the best-case scenario. Take time to imagine the amazing things that could happen. What if it was glorious? What if everyone was happy, learning, and satisfied? What if your children started pint-sized film studies? What if they learned a different language? What if they built something thoughtful and impressive in a video game? What if they learned to collaborate, manage conflict, and be confident through online interactions? What if they felt more connected to their friends? What if they learned how to turn off the screen and choose something else to do? (I've seen all of this happen in my home.)
As a family:
- Discuss concerns. As best as you can, and in a way your child can understand, state your concerns. Limit them to three-ish. Maybe: I'm worried you won't do anything else. I'm worried about the conflict that might arise when I ask you to wrap it up. I'm worried about your quality of sleep and ability to be a kind person in our family. Then ask them what their concerns might be and listen to their answers.
- Discuss benefits. Also state the positive things that you hope will happen. Maybe: I hope you enjoy yourself immensely and find shows and games that inspire and comfort you. I hope you share your discoveries with me. I hope you learn when you need a break and give yourself one.
- Set expectations for stopping. Even thought you're about to go unlimited, you might want to set some parameters. I'd recommend: How will you pause to go to the bathroom or eat? How will you find a stopping point to help me with dinner. What do you think will help our family get the most out of unlimited screen time? (Obviously these will depend on your family and the maturity of your children.)
- Try. Go for it. Give it a week or so and see how things unfold. Pay attention to your concerns, their concerns, the benefits, and the expectations you considered beforehand.
- Celebrate good stuff. When good stuff happens, make a point to bring it to everyone's attention.
- Revisit concerns. When things feel like they need attention, bring the family together for a meeting and revisit the concerns, the benefits, and how everyone is navigating the expectations.
- Revise? Maybe you'll need to revise the expectations or the processes for exploring media.
- Try again.
Go ahead. If you need an excuse for exploring unlimited screen time then point at coronavirus. Then give it a try!
For more on how and why to explore unlimited screen time check out these blogs:
- Everyday Parenting: Unlimited Screen Time by Happiness is Here
- In Defense of Screens by I'm Unschooled. Yes, I Can Write.
- Screentime by Unschooling Mom to Mom
- Is it Really Okay to Give Unschooling Kids Unlimited Access to Screens and the Internet? by Stories of an Unschooling Family
- Economics of Restricting TV by Sandra Dodd
- Gradual Change by Sandra Dodd
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