One of the ongoing debates among parents is how to regulate a child’s screen time, often with moms, dads and “experts” lending their ideas on what restrictions to set. This gets evermore tricky with the increasing number of available devices (televisions, computers, tablets, cell phones) and their mobility allowing them to be viewed not only at home but almost everywhere at any time.
The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages most screen time for children under age 6 and, after that, it calls for encouraging “healthy habits” that include limits on when and where screens can be used. The problem is, as The Mayo Clinic notes, “As your child grows, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work as well. You’ll need to decide how much media to let your child use each day and what’s appropriate.”
Clearly, no right or wrong answer exists. Parents must do what they feel is best for their child in a given circumstance. In our house we’ve adopted a perspective that somewhat goes against the norm: We have no restrictions on our children’s screen time.
Our reasons for unlimited screen time
Here are some of the main reasons we use this approach, and some of our personal results:
- We believe rationing a child’s screen time leads to dependency, even a sort of addiction. Living in a state of constant fear or anxiety that something we enjoy could be taken away often leads to an all-consuming obsession with that thing whenever we have it.
- We don’t put devices on a pedestal. As they’re constantly and readily available for our children, our kids don’t view devices as anything special. More often than not, our two children will choose to play with toys, color or read a book over using their tablets. Since they’ve grown accustomed to them always being there, there’s never been a need to have them at all times.
- We don’t allow an entirely free range of use when it comes to devices. Both our children’s tablets are governed by parental controls (they’re Android, and we utilize the Family Link app). We also moderate the content they’re allowed to watch so that anything they might see has already been pre-approved.
Admittedly, this approach hasn’t been entirely without issues. However, in talking to multiple other parents with a more “traditional” approach, I realized our family has had fewer arguments and complaints about devices and those we have had have been much less severe.
This approach has also allowed us to effectively “steer into the skid” in terms of how technology is being used for educational purposes. Our son is in kindergarten and like many kids, his school assigned him an iPad for classwork. Utilizing technology will become more and more prevalent as the years go by, and as parents, we want to make sure we’ve done everything possible to nurture a positive and healthy relationship between our children and their devices.