Mar 12, 2013

Time for a "Screen - Fast"?? You be the judge...

I DON'T HATE TELEVISION (in fact I'm going to give you a little history lesson about it )

Let me preface this post by starting with this: I grew up in a home where the television was rarely turned off.  If my father was at home, the television was on.  The only time it went off when he was home, was during dinner time.  I don't know why he loves t.v. so much (I assume it's because he can still remember when there was no such thing... so it's still amazing to him... or he's just addicted.)

When I was a kid there were only a about 3-6 channels on television.  I looked it up... most people didn't have cable t.v. until the mid to late 1980s... in fact in 1983 fewer than 1 million homes had cable T.V. and by 1989, more than 53 million homes were hooked up. 

Our first VCR had a "remote control" that was attached with a 12' long cord, plugged right into the front (found this picture from Ebay... hilarious, note the "color video cassette recorder" as though that was still unique).

What about Computers?  We got an Apple IIGS when I was seven years old and I taught myself how to use it.  I played the games that taught me how to use a mouse and the typing games to learn the keyboard, but really only used it for writing reports and printing them on our "dot matrix" printer... until High School... and the invention of the internet.

Yes... and I walked uphill in the snow to school... both ways... barefoot.

Netflix and Hulu and iPads oh my!

Contrast that with the screen choices, nay, the veritable smorgasbord, of screen options for our children today.  Never ending television shows and movies available instantly at their finger tips online, on netflix, on hulu, games, through digital recording and more available on iPads, cell phones and computers.

Though current trends are showing a decrease in over all t.v. viewing (down to a "low" 22 hours a week), the average time spend on mobile devices is increasing (to more than 2+ hours a week).

Parents, we have a new pacifier and it's name is "tablet".
This following image is totally real ...

 Yes.  Yes it is.  It is a potty training toilet with an ipad holder (complete with splash guard), because it's too hard to potty train your kid with words and attention... so we can have the ipad do it for us. (I'm sorry if I sound judgmental... but I am... I'm judging that toilet... and the people who buy it.)

I am sure if we were sitting in a room together you could tell me all of the reasons why so much screen time is bad for our kids.  I also know that most moms (me included) love the talking box (or the iPad or the iPhone) and the moments of pure bliss it provides as a distraction to our demanding children.

Here are just SOME of the potential risks of the average 2-7 HOURS A DAY of screen time the average American kid has:

1. Increased Obesity
2. Linked to ADHD and other mental health issues like depression and anxiety
3. A decrease in Beta brain waves (logical, rational), increase in low Alpha waves (dream state, comatose)
4. Sleep problems (both going to sleep and staying asleep)
5. Screen time is linked to poor literacy (in adults too)
6. Decrease of communication and family time

A recent study by Common Sense Media on technology for ages 0 to 8 included an alarming statistic involving children and television.   30% of 0- to 1-year-olds, 44% of 2- to 4-year-olds, and 47% of 5- to 8-year-olds have a television in their room.  I am just saying... why??  Can anyone give me a genuinely good reason for your 0-8 year old to have a television in their room? ANYONE?

I use screen time to put my kids into a comatose state so I don't have to interact with them (a true life confession)

Look... my kids watch T.V.  We have Netflix, we have digital cable, they have access to a computer and a Wii.  I sometimes allow them to watch T.V., just because it keeps them from fighting for 20 minutes at a time and I can blog, clean, do laundry, blog, cook or just about anything without them constantly wanting to interact with me.

BUT THAT IS WHY I LET THEM.  I find little kids to be slightly exhausting.  My kids are very creative... they love to do projects and they love to talk to me.  all.  the.  time.  They love to talk to me about the project they are going to make.  They love to talk to me about the project they have made.   They love to tell me all the ways that their sibling "hurt their feewings" today.

This is my confession.    I can't believe that there is any other reason that parents plug their kids into iPads, and cell phones and Netflix and Uverse other than for that same reason.  They are tired and want to do something else... anything... other than talk to their kids.  We all love our kids... we don't want to neglect them... but we have become dependent on these screens to numb us from the exhausting reality of constantly feeling like we have to entertain our kids.

1. Teach our kids to entertain themselves using toys and books and other non-screen things (My kids have each had 1-2 hours of "quiet resting time" almost every day for most of their lives - except for school days, playing in their room quietly and ALONE.)
2. Take the T.V. out of their room and actually put limits on screen time every day.  I know you know the suggested amounts by age.  Basically it maxes out at 2 hours.
3. Do a screen time audit.  Pay attention for a week at how much time your family spends watching T.V., on the computer, playing video games, or on a mobile device like a cell phone or tablet.
4. Do a 5-7 day "screen fast". Other than using your phone to communicate with other people, no screens for the whole time.  Every member of the family.  It will help them detox from the constant screen time and you from your dependency on screens to distract the kids from you.
5. Here are some things you can do with your kids instead: play a board game, color, ride bikes, play soccer, have a water balloon war, learn to play chess or checkers, read out loud, go to the park, make cookies, write a story together, do a craft, make a fort in the family room out of sheets and clothespins, plant flowers, play a card game, have a dance party in the living room, write letters to friends and family, do a science experiment, fly a kite or do a nature scavenger hunt in the neighborhood.

Want to read more about this? Me either.
Google it.  I promise... you will read more than you want. 
Talk to me: Did this resonate? Make you feel judged? Make you feel convicted??  I really want to know!


  1. My husband is a lot like your dad, I think, though he doesn't remember the days of no TV. Because it is always on when he is home, I rarely turn it on during the day. It's just noise to me.

    I laugh at people who have to have TV's in the car to run errands to keep their kids entertained. I remember having to entertain my kids without the car tv...But I also remember the days before home air conditioning, too.

  2. Our kids no matter how old they are will NEVER have a TV in their room. Plus, we don't have regular or cable channels. Yes, the only reason my children watch TV is so I can have a quick shower or for some of the reasons you have a chance to cook uninterrupted, etc. They are actually really good at doing puzzles now since they do that a lot in their room for quiet time (1-2 hours for us too).
    The only time we hook up a video in the car is for long travel...more than 45 minutes. It is nice to know I am not alone.


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