Depending what experts and researchers you ask, kids spend between one and 8 hours a day looking at a screen. Now, that is a very wide range. The factors to determine the averages depend on age. A typical baby looks at a screen less than a typical 12 year old. But no matter what way you slice it up, kids spend a lot of time in front of the screen.
In fact, as I write this post, my kids may or may not be watching Netflix. I’ll leave that one up in the air.
Like many different hot topics, one can find research to support her position. Admittedly, there is much more research in support of lessening or eliminating screen time than embracing it.
Nevertheless, I pop in here with my own research, based solely on bumping through raising my own three children. Please note that these are observations only, and what seems to have worked for us. Perhaps a tidbit in here can help you as you figure out your journey toward solidifying a screen time policy (or lack of one) in your home.
- “What” matters. Not to name names or anything, but when my kids come out of a “Masha and the Bear” coma, they are wired for failure every single time. They want more, but can’t have it. They are wrung up but can’t handle their own intensity. They are a mess. End of story. When they watch a Disney Nature documentary or even Wild Kratts, they *usually* end up in a much better place. They are able to communicate and function in the world again and may have even learned something new. Choose wisely and be selective with what the kids watch.
- “When” matters. TV before school? Definitely a no in this house – sets us up for sure failure as we try to get our day started. Right before sleep? Definitely a no – sleep won’t happen right after anyway. Right after a nice long play outside? Definitely a maybe in this house. It can even be a great way to wind down (see point number 1 for cautions.)
- Choose the lesser of the two stresses. Let me explain. Today I had a really bad day. I mean, really TL, no one died. But I yelled at my kids, they yelled at me (wonder why) and I didn’t get out of my sweat pants. The day was peppered with various mood busters and I just plain felt like crap. By 4:30 pm I needed to be alone. Alone. With no possibility of child interactions. At all. Unfortunately, I am not the evolved human that can handle herself with grace and poise when overwhelmed and in a spiral of pity. I knew my limit, and it was reached. I decided my options were simple. Call a babysitter to arrive in 30 seconds or less (unlikely.) Plow through and be a hero and try to interact with my kids in a stimulating environment (failure to follow.) Tell them to play quietly (29% probability of success.) Or turn on Wild Kratts. The answer was easy. 100% success.
To answer the question of how much screen time is too much screen time is to broad. Too much is too much. In this home, it’s clear and obvious when that is reached, and we do our best to not get to that point. I suspect you will know as well for your own home’s balance and flow.
Stay posted for upcoming post about the games, shows, and apps that we’ve tried that produce positive effects rather than feral consequences. Not that we’ve ever experienced the latter. Ever.