Screen Time Success

Screen Time Success

Parents hear a lot about how important it is to limit their child’s screen time, a decision made difficult by how much kids enjoy it. What with all the studies and experts concluding that too much can affect everything from physical health to success in school, it’s easy to panic when it looks like your child is addicted.

As both a babysitter and a member of the first internet generation I have a unique perspective, from both sides of the fence.

I was babysitting a few nights ago for a family I have recently started working with. We haven’t been over the rules about technology yet, but from a brief interaction I’d observed between father and son, I gathered that the parents preferred to limit the time spent with gadgets. Therefore, when 4-year-old Zeke asked to play on the iPad ten minutes before bedtime, I declined. When he persisted, despite repeated refusals and CAN DO alternatives on my part, I realized—this is about more than just using the iPad. For him to be this attached, he had to have something specific in mind.

So I said, “There must be a particular game you wanted to play.” When he responded with an emphatic “Yes!”, I asked him to tell me about it. After describing the game and why he liked it in great detail, he said, “I know a game we can play!” He ran to the cupboard and got out the board game Risk. Thinking he was over the iPad fixation, and a little surprised that he would be interested in such an adult game, I followed him to the coffee table where he started to take out the board and set up the pieces. As he explained how to play, I realized he was using his own made-up rules that sounded a lot like the iPad game he had just been explaining to me. Perfect.

In order to have a success like this, I just remember one of our basic premises: children must continue to communicate until they are heard. When Zeke couldn’t let go, I knew that his communication was not about just playing on the iPad itself. So I looked to him for guidance, and together we found a way for him to meet his own needs inside the boundary of “no iPad.”

Another thing that helps me in scenarios like this is the knowledge that kids like video games for specific reasons. A few that I can relate to are: the experience of success, the rush of overcoming an obstacle, or even just escaping from the pressures of life and relaxing in an environment where the rules are simple and you feel in control.

So the next time you feel yourself beginning to worry that your child is an internet-addicted zombie who will never amount to anything, just remind yourself that all screens are not created equal. Your child knows what he needs. Find other CAN DOs that meet those needs, and you’ve got the problem solved.

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