Kids and Screens – Part 1

My son is three and a half years old. He has used my husband’s tablet, my Nook, both of our phones, a laptop, and the wii. He has his own Leap Frog and a V-tech tablet. Yet, he spends most of his day having tea parties or playing trains or running around outside.

Some people are horrified at the number of “screens” my son can manipulate and use. He can swipe his finger, push buttons, use a mouse, and handle a remote. They assume because he can use them, we must plop them in front of him all the time instead of interacting with him. They would be wrong.

I should say my husband and I are quite tech-savvy. My husband’s degree is in network administration and I use social media for my second job (although I am using it more and more for my teaching job as well). I’m also currently looking at a Masters program called “Educational Technology”, so there’s that too.

Technology. We use it.

However, Family Time does not turn into Everyone Stares at His or Her Own Screen Time. We have a schedule for when screen time can occur and a system for how much screen time the 3-year old can have.

When we are out and about, it is not screen time. For anyone. If my husband or I are in the store, we are interacting with each other and the kids, not handing everyone a screen and cuing up Angry Birds to keep people quiet.

At home, screen time is earned and is only allowed for the hour or so between coming home from daycare and dinner time. After dinner is bath and Family Time before bed. There are no screens at daycare other than some TV in the morning before breakfast.

Our 3-yaear old has a responsibility chart that lists seven things (pick up toys, brush teeth, say please & thank you, etc) he should be doing every day. He gets to put a smiley face magnet next to each item that he does each day. He earns his hour+ per day of screen time.

We don’t believe we should keep our kids from all screens until a certain age. This is what the world is…and it will be this way even more as they grow older. They have both fun games and learning apps to use. My 3-year old is not some drooling, staring gamer. He is a bright, energetic boy who is learning responsibility through earning time to do something he likes.

He is also learning how to use technology responsibly. As he grows up and his interests in what appears on these screens changes, we can have  dialogues about when and how much time he can spend on them. We can also talk about what is on them, what should NEVER be on them, and how to behave when he is on them.

We don’t want to pretend like banning all (or even most) or technology from our kids’ lives is possible…or even a good idea. We want them to grow and learn and become responsible with it.

Not like many of the teens and adults I see on a daily basis. Which I’ll write about next time.