“The virtue of justice consists in moderation, as regulated by wisdom.” – Aristotle
I’ve found that being a good parent requires three base things: time to think, attention to my children and myself, and thought about what we have done, are doing, or will do. These things, coupled with kindness and gentleness allow me to make good and generally sound decisions with and for my children. They also make me a wiser and more just parent.
When any one of these things is missing, however, I become more reactionary and see the world in black and white terms because it’s simpler. In those periods – when I lack the time, attention, or ability to think – I become a parent who looks for the easier answer, faster, without searching for that same treasure trove of wisdom that’s always present.
All of that preamble speaks to a question that is the source of a great deal of discussion with my spouse and my children: whether or not and/or how much screen time to allow. Screen time is and maybe has been around for at least two generations. It’s a means for parents to get things done and children to be entertained.
Screen time gives us a chance to clean and tidy up, drive in peace, or just enjoy some quiet in what might otherwise be a chaotic day. I know with my kids, having them engaged in something that isn’t me or my spouse sometimes is helpful.
I think we all can find pros and cons to screen time. The one thing that’s clear, however, is this: the answer to screen time isn’t nearly as black or white as we’d like to believe it is. To whit: the American Academy of Pediatrics last fall noted that presence or absence of screen time is less consequential than than the quality of the screen time. Again: the leading voice on health and wellness for children between 2 and 6 said, in effect, “Be wise about screen time.”
Here’s where I land as a parent on screen time, with Aristotle as a guide and understanding full well that I’m also the CEO of a kids’ app company with an interest in “good screen time.” I’ll use the “Time, attention, thought” triangle as a way to think about it:
- Time: Limit it. Have clear boundaries with your kids about how much screen time they get. Use the screen time to be a better parent by getting things done so that you can be a more mindful and present parent after you’ve completed the task and given them the “five minute heads-up” that screen time is just about over.
- Attention: Pay it. Engage your children in and with the screen time. Ask them what they’re doing, help them teach you how to do something they’ve learned in the device they’re using. And pay attention to what it is that they’re using and playing. Install apps that can be educational and fun and with which you have genuine comfort.
- Thought: Give it. Think about screen time not as black or white, but as a mechanism to make things better for your child and your family. Being reactionary and simply stating “No screen time!” doesn’t demonstrate that you’re being thoughtful about how to parent in an age where your child sees you on your phone and wonders why they can’t emulate you.
With screen time, as with anything, good screen habits begin with moderation. Limit time, pay attention to what your child is engaging on-screen, and give thought to how the screen time can be augmentative to them and your family.
Nothing can substitute for time spent with you, but good screen time can supplement what your child is learning and – in the case of Clash of Clans for my oldest son and Pic Collage for my oldest daughter – let kids learn leadership, strategy, cooperation, abstract reasoning, creativity, and (yes, even) have mindless fun.
This post is part of a series of free resources and activities at the Summer of Learning with Montessorium! Follow along all summer long.
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