I’ve seen so many of my fellow bloggers address kids and screen time lately and I’ve been asked about it a lot in my Instagram DMs. So, I thought it would be a good time to share my thoughts on the topic! As a preface to this post, I think all families can and should do what works for their children and family life, and this is just our approach/philosophy, which is not right or wrong, just what feels right for us.
Our kids, like most, love shows and movies. They watch shows (current fave is Paw Patrol) and movies every week. On Sunday mornings after breakfast if we don’t have any plans, we usually watch some shows or a movie together. Sometimes if we’re all feeling exhausted after school and work and just need to chill, we watch a couple of episodes of Paw Patrol or Elena of Avalor (usually the kids play with their toys before bath and bedtime). Our philosophy has always been to make TV/movies/shows an activity we do together – we don’t have the TV on for background noise.
Last weekend, we watched a Disney movie together after our Sunday morning breakfast. Sometimes, when we need quiet time and the kids won’t nap or when they’ve spent hours playing and just need to chill, we put on a show or movie and we’re totally OK with it!
One thing we’ve felt strongly about are iPads. We have two iPads, but we don’t bring them with us anywhere – we basically only use them on airplanes. There was a time where we did let the kids watch YouTube kids on the iPad (in our presence), but there was one time where a Peppa Pig Video suddenly had an inappropriate scene and I realized it was something that had slipped past the filters. Then, I watched this TED Talk and read this NYT article and decided there wouldn’t be YouTube anymore. Our kids have seen the “baby shark,” “finger family,” and “surprise egg” videos and I think too much YouTube impacts behavior and we just aren’t into it and don’t find value in most of the content.
We do like Blippi and Cosmic Kids Yoga – but we just got the Blippi app on our TV and watch it that way. Since our kids don’t have iPads, we don’t do any apps or games really. When they were both younger, we sometimes used the peekaboo barn and shapes app, but we don’t do any now.
I actually love the idea of apps and games kids can play that encourage learning – but I know Harper has computer lab at school where she gets to play learning games, so I don’t think we also need to use them at home. The kids have so many toys and crafting supplies, so I’d rather they engage with those things right now, since it seems like the older they get, the more and more time they spend on screens.
We’ve noticed that if we ever have the TV on during meal times (like Sunday morning breakfast, for example), the kids get really distracted by it, so we try to avoid TV while we’re actively eating (though sometimes we do leave it on – never at dinner time though).
We eat out quite a bit (usually on Friday night and on weekends) and it was important to us that our kids learn that eating out is a special family treat and not a time to watch a movie or play a game. I totally get why parents do it – the temptation of a peaceful meal is a worthy one, absolutely! We’ve always worried that if we offered it once or in response to a tantrum, it would be an issue every time we ate out, so we never even entertained it as a possibility.
Our kids are well-behaved most of the time when we go out for lunch or dinner – they actually love the menus that come with crayons and they both color as we wait for our food. Last weekend, we ate at P.F. Chang’s and tried to teach the kids to use chopsticks, practicing picking things up as we waited for our food to come. When they were younger (it doesn’t happen often now that they’re 3 and 5) if either child had a tantrum while we were at a restaurant, our approach was that one parent would take the child outside to calm down before heading back inside. Obviously this only happened when it was a major tantrum that was disruptive to others around us (and not a quick fuss), but it has been effective. They can get their emotions out without everyone staring and they can learn that we don’t get to go back inside until they’ve calmed down. I’d love to know how y’all deal with situations that arise when you’re eating out as a family!
The other part of the screen time equation is us, as parents. We’ve definitely struggled with being on our phones and always being available. Kevin sometimes answers work emails during non-working hours and I use social media a lot personally and for my blog. It’s definitely an area we’re trying to improve in to model good behavior. I’ve read a few articles with ideas like putting your phone in a location where it’s not right next to you or muting your notifications during a certain time window so you don’t feel the need to check your phone. In today’s world, we’ve all become accustomed to being available, connected and having all of the information we need at our fingertips – it can be exhausting! Definitely something to continue to work on this year.
I’d love to know more about screen time rules and philosophies in your families – please leave a comment! And remember, we’re all just doing what we feel is best for our families – whether you don’t watch TV at all or let your child use an iPad everyday – I support your choices!
*Photos by Olive Shoot Photography