Screen time and kids: all screens vs. passive video vs. games vs. no screen games.

GWJCC Episode 332 had an email about screen time, and while I am a heavy screen user and gamer on my own time (not in front of the kids as much as I can), as well as a tech professional, my original philosophy has long been that Less Screen Time Is Better.

However that discussion and how the world of screens is a growing part of our world and culture has me rethinking my resistance to it overall.

My wife, who spends more time with my kids in the afternoon while I am at work, has steadily overridden my objections to screen time, not without limits, but I find myself getting upset that they will often opt to watch Netflix cartoons unstead of play games interactively together, or just games in general.

My screen situation is:
TV with a PS3 for Netflix or gaming -or- Wii for gaming (one TV)
Two laptops for Netflix streaming or Flash-based educationally/parentally approved gaming sites or Terraria/Minecraft time (limited on one compared to other due to machine's age).

Kids are 10, 8, and 4.

They do not have their own screens. I would call that an unregulatable screen. That genie needs to stay in that bottle as long as possible. My wife is lobbying hard for a tablet but I am strongly resisting that because I firmly believe it would swiftly end up shattered or police evidence after one sibling bludgeons another to death with it when they rabidly don't want to give it up.

The discussion in the podcast has prompted me to consider switching tacks a bit. I still think interpersonal skills are not helped by screen time, and that in-person play and games teach more patience and ability to deal with a situation where button pushes don't do everything instantaneously for you, but if screen time is going to happen, why not prioritize it.

Has anyone here experimented with allowing more screen time if it's gaming together (good old forced co-op), maybe a little less if it's just gaming, and much less if it's video-only? They already greatly enjoy the Just Dance games on the Wii, so it's not like I'd have to force much of it. But I really would much rather them play and do deeper dives into the games they like than sit and vegetate in front of a Bay Blades cartoon. *shudder*

First, it's Beyblades.

Second, kill me.

Third, mine is only 7 months, so we're nowhere near the cartoons/video game/computer issue yet. Still, it's not too early to think about it, and I definitely want to follow as well as we can the APA advice of avoiding all screens for the first two years. After that, screens will be a part of her life, and that's the 21st-century.

I grew up with a pretty strictly enforced one-hour-of-day of TV (including SNES) when I was a kid. I didn't have a (big) issue with it that then, and I think it's a great idea now. Obviously we didn't have tablets back then, so I guess my input is: I have no idea.

As balanced as possible, and what time in front of screens is as quality as possible?

I have an 18 month old daughter and she LOVES the iPad. We try to limit her to watching english premier league soccer (that is really my vice) and a few moments on the iPad every now and again (basically every time we leave it in view on a table, she demands to see it and play with it). I am in the boat that interactive screen time is MUCH better than tv/video but still should be severely limited. Having said that, after she had 15 minutes with a drawing app from "Baby First", she was able to recognize three additional colors that she didn't know previously.

Edit: Responding to Gravey -- we are trying to following the APA guildelines of zero before 2 years but it is really tough if you have an iPad or smartphone in your home. I would say on average my daughter gets less than 5 minutes of screen time a day. Most screen time. But then on Monday night she was clearing the suns for me while I replayed PvZ (for probably 8 to 10 minutes).

Edgar_Newt wrote:

Edit: Responding to Gravey -- we are trying to following the APA guildelines of zero before 2 years but it is really tough if you have an iPad or smartphone in your home. I would say on average my daughter gets less than 5 minutes of screen time a day. Most screen time. But then on Monday night she was clearing the suns for me while I replayed PvZ (for probably 8 to 10 minutes).

Yeah, I have no idea how we're going to do it. An iPad, two iPhones, laptop, computer, TV, that the parents are constantly attached to. Not to mention an older cousin (2.5) who's sometimes pacified with an iPhone, and another older cousin (4.5) whose TV/computer time/use is completely unregulated (well that's on the parents, don't get me started).

But if Michael Abbot can do it (mostly!), then that's the ideal we'll work towards.

Otherwise, we're pretty familiar with the good baby/toddler apps.

The Mrs and I are on the same page when it comes to screen use in front of the kids but I've walked in the door more than once and found the kids doing screen time and heyyy, the Mrs is doing screen time at the same time instead of something more productive.

We agree that it's basically unfair for us to be fiddling with our phones, even if it's (extended) family communication over IM or TXT or email, and the kids are looking at us like "hello, where's mine!"

Not to scare you, but you may also find what their friends have becomes a factor. Example? Great family friends of ours have three wonderful kids same ages as mine. The older two have iPod Touch devices now as of last holiday, and my oldest still doesn't have one. That is particularly galling for her that a 7 year old got one and she doesn't have one.

We can still stand on the ground that other parents make their own decisions on what kinds of movies, tv, video games, and screens their kids can use, and we have other ideas.

Really I can't imagine how on earth they'd ever get their homework done, wash up, brush their teeth, or get into their bed on time if they had a little screen siren song tugging at them to just tap one more thing. As it is now I have to carefully, gently, direct them to put their book down (books, remember those?) and get to sleep instead of reading more.

My kids love screen time, particularly Minecraft on the 360. They ask to play, I say yes; they tend to get home around 4, and play until we eat dinner at 5. Typically, that's it. They don't need to be asked to do their homework, as they just sit and do it, and, as they've both found book series they really like recently, they read at least an hour a day. If their chores are done, the homework is done, and they've been reading, sure, go ahead and play more if you want to, particularly on weekends.

I'm more of the mentality that if they're doing their homework, reading, and other positive things, then I shouldn't be too worried about how they're spending their free time; I'd rather concern myself with the positive aspects of them doing what's necessary, and not really worrying about it. We used to fight all the time about screen time back when my wife was in her "screens are bad, even though I check my phone every five minutes and the kids know I'm being hypocritical" phase, but I encouraged her to mellow the hell out, and, now that the kids understand they're going to get video game/occasional TV time (X-Men!), we really don't fight about it.

We almost never have the TV on in our house unless my wife and I are watching movies, or something on Netflix. One of the big issues APA has is with background TV noise. We gave our first son almost no screen time until he was 10-12 months old, when we showed him a series called Baby Signing Time, and even then we watched no more than 20 minutes at a time/per day, and watched with him. The payoff was that he was signing within a couple of months, and that was awesome. We had been signing to him since he was born, but he didn't start making signs back until after watching the videos a few times. i think seeing other kids signing rather than just Mom and Dad made a difference.

We followed up with some alphabet/number/color and sight word videos, but again no more than 20 minutes a day. A couple of times we've made exceptions for car trips more than 2 hours, using the iPad. He'll switch back and forth between Bob, Elmo ABCs, sight words and Bartleby. He's also into Bob the Builder and Fireman Sam, and Thomas of course, some of that absorbed through class mates. He's 2.5 years old now, and usually does OK with accepting the time restrictions, although it can be a battle sometimes.

I've held off on doing any gaming in front of him, mostly because we can usually find other things to do that seem more positive, like reading, puzzles or simple board games. I don't know when i'll feel comfortable playing something like Mario Galaxy with him, but it'll probably be soon. (Contrast with my brother in law, who plays Call of Duty every night, in front of his 1 year old and 3 year old. Yikes.)

We're following this pattern with our 1 year old too, but with an older brother in the house, it's harder to be so strict.

No kids, so no practical input. I do plan to force my future hypothetical children to recapitulate the history of computing technology, though. All the screentime you want, but it has to be on a Commodore 64 until you turn 12!

I'm sure they'll thank me later.