I resolved to set limits on screen time for my kids in 2013. Two weeks after this New Year's resolution, I am running behind. The reality of our obsessions took time to set in. It took me months to realize just how much my 8-year-old was buried in his iTouch, playing games for more than an hour before school. I was too busy helping my 11-year-old search for his charger for his Samsung tablet, checking his Samsung Smart Phone for any inappropriate texts or Instagram postings and logging onto his AOL and Google email accounts to see if anything bad was going on. I was also busy admiring the Powerpoint presentation my second grader did for a school project and watching the music video he and his friends made on YouTube (to the Journey song "Don't Stop Believing," which I used to listen to when I was a kid -- on a record player, no less).
And that's just their stuff. The other thing that keeps me distracted is my own love for -- and obsession with -- my technology: constantly checking my three email accounts on my iPhone, going on Facebook, Tweeting, texting and more. I am out of control. I know kids watch what we do more than what we say. So what am I doing modeling such excessive screen time?
I am addicted, but it's hard to stop. I want to be in communication. I want to be social. I want to be connected... just like them. (Or is it them being just like me?)
How many parents have rules about screen time for their kids? Of those, how many stick to it and how many are really sure they have the right rules in place? Today, I finally stopped to consider a strategy for limiting tech time and I'm stuck.
Here's why: This morning, as the clock hit 6:45 a.m. and we were all grabbing for our devices, I remembered my resolution and found myself trying to be a better parent. "If you're going to be doing something online, be social, don't be sucked in," I shouted, surprising myself -- and them.
I think that's how I really feel: Seeing them using the games and silly apps bothers me, but if I know they're on their devices connecting with friends via text or Instagram, I'm sort of OK with it. No wonder I've been reluctant to set limits. I like the idea of them being social on screens. Did I just say that? Is that social? It is today.
So that put an end to iTouch game time before school today. Without his games, my 8-year-old got creative. He made an elaborate movie on the laptop and somehow edited a music video. Good! He's using screen time to be creative!
I think I realize why I couldn't bring myself to truly limit screen time. I like my sons using screen time if it means they are creating or communicating. Beyond that, I don't like it.
So, today, I'm going to sit down and draft some rules, allowing myself to recognize that parenting in the high-tech world doesn't have to be so extreme. I think every family needs to set the rules that are right for them. I want to raise boys who are strong communicators and creative kids. Screen time will be a part of that. If critics who call for more drastic restrictions don't like it, I'm sure I'll hear about it on Twitter.