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Who knew honest conversations about parenting and pornography could be so laid-back and fun? Join Melody and Marilyn for a series of chats and interviews on their journey to help fellow parents tackle this challenging topic with their kids.

Jul 17, 2019

Love them or hate them, screens are here to stay. But when it comes to our kids, how much screen time is too much? How do we know? What do the experts say? Are all children the same?  

 

There’s no doubt. Screen time is a hot topic. While many schools are handing out free laptops, parents worry that kids are missing out on all the benefits of analog learning and outdoor play. Are we being over-protective? Or is there legitimate cause for concern? 

 

Realistically, the answer is both YES and NO. 

 

We need to stop thinking about screen time as “good” or “bad” and start thinking about our family time in terms of priorities. Remember the jar analogy? If we try to shove a bunch of big rocks, small stones and sand into a jar all at once, it won’t work. Instead, we need to identify the big rocks, put them in place first, and then fit the small stuff in around them. It’s the same way with our time. 

 

What are the “big rocks” in your family? Sleep? Exercise? Work? Together time? We need to ask ourselves: Is screen time taking up too much space and replacing some of these big rocks in our family jar? Or is screen time just part of the sand, filling up the cracks around our most important priorities? This is the key to establishing healthy screen time habits in our homes. 

 

Today we will be discussing:

1. The impact of screens on children and families

2. The links between screen time and pornography 

3. Screen time solutions we like 

 

I. SCREEN TIME AND THE FAMILY 

-We’re not against screens; we’re for smart screen use and pro-human connection

-American Academy of Pediatrics & World Health Org recommendations:

-Infants under 1 yr/18 mo): no screens

-Ages 2 to 5: max 1 hour of high-quality programming

-Ages 6+: consistent limits (shouldn’t replace sleep, physical activity and other healthy behaviors) 

-The upcoming generation, deemed the Glass Generation, is losing various skills because they are using screens rather than interacting in real life. Here are some examples:  

-Painting in real life vs. “painting” on a tablet: Screens actually do not develop fine motor, sensory, and interpersonal skills in the same way. 

-Playing dress-up in real life vs. digital avatars on a device: Digital dress-up is not the same as walking in heels, putting on clothes that are too big for you, talking with accents, and the pretend play the results from dressing like an imaginary character. 

-Talking vs. Texting: With text, we lose the subtleties of communication, like body language, facial expressions, eye contact, and vocal inflections.

-An embarrassing photo captured by Melody’s toddler reveals the reality of a child growing up in the digital age: Mom on her laptop, toddler taking pictures with the iPhone, and a messy room where a child is entertaining himself while mom is busy. We are not too big to admit this is our reality too! And we know it’s not this way all the time. But we need to be aware of it. Let’s be sure to unplug and enjoy our kids! 

-Sociological effect vs psychological effect — The Big Disconnect by Catherine Steiner Adair

-“… Nothing can match the power of our attention and our capacity to connect in affirming, loving, nourishing ways. Screens and tech cannot match it, but they can replace it—if we let it happen.” 

-Guidelines above focus on the formative years. Let’s consider what applies to tweens and teens. 

  • During these years, it’s more subjective. Are your teens mastering technology or becoming a slave to their phones/screens?
  • Sleep! This is a BIG DEAL for teens. Don’t let screens replace sleep! (More in solutions.) 

-“‘We’re in the wild, wild, west era of the world wide web.’ This generation will lead us through it, help us become more settled and civilized in it.”

 

II. SCREEN TIME AND PORNOGRAPHY

-Simple math: More time on screens = more chance of exposure to inappropriate content

-Too much time on screens sets us up for sex on screens

-Screens in the middle of the night = risky behavior (nudes)

-The Cardboard Butterfly Study: Porn is created to be more tantalizing and addictive than real people. The problem is, we can’t create real connections and healthy bonds with pixels and computers.

-Pornography has to be part of the conversation from Day 1. Get Off the Fence, and talk to your kids! 

-What are we NOT doing/learning if we’re absorbed in our screens:

  • Human Interaction, body language, listening skills. These skills are essential to thrive and should be mastered in adolescence. 
  • Communication via screens can make this task more challenging.  
  • Relationships are happening online … Do love and trust truly exist online? 

 

III. SCREEN TIME SOLUTIONS 

 

Replace Unhealthy Habits

-Are you and your kids using tech like a big kid/adult pacifier? Is a screen your first choice to help you unwind when you’re stressed, to soothe you when you are angry or frustrated, or to entertain you when you’re bored? 

-Try to be purposeful about your screen time. Use it as a tool, rather than a coping mechanism. Don’t become a slave to your screens. Try to utilize them for practical needs--not psychological ones. 

-Identify patterns in your day where you turn to screens to fill a psychological need and try to replace those habits with healthier ones. For instance, if you usually go straight to your phone or TV to unwind after work or school, breaking that habit. Postpone your need for a screen for 20 minutes or so. Have a snack, read a book, take a walk, or talk to a family member about your day. Take control of your schedule. Don’t let your cravings for your tech take control of you!

-Try to create some times or spaces in your home where devices are off limits. (Have you seen this PSA from #DeviceFreeDinner starring Will Ferrell?)

-Get the screens out of the bedroom: video games, phones (This is not an attack on them or a punishment-- it’s protection)

 

Put People First

-Remember to put your priorities in order, and put people first: “People, Passions, Purpose”

-This is not just a kid issue. 

-When your kids get home, acknowledge them, try to make eye contact or shout hello

 

Create a Screen Time Plan with Your Family

-Have a family meeting to set boundaries regarding screen time. Meet with your family regularly to keep your guidelines up to date, and to follow up with each other. (This might be monthly or quarterly for some families, or every six months for others--whatever works for you!) 

-Write down your goals and guidelines. Do an online search and you will find several templates to create a plan or contract. (See link list below.)

-Here are some tips to consider as you meet together to create your family plan:

-Don’t just focus on rules and regulations. This is not a smack down--it’s a team effort. Focus on the positive, and have fun together!

-In Melody’s family, they begin the process by listing fun things they like to do as a family--both on and off screens

-INVOLVE THE KIDS! We can’t stress this enough! 

 

Challenge: Identify one unhealthy pattern in your family regarding screen time and replace it with a healthy one.

 

Links from this Episode:

Family Media Plan (American Academy of Pediatrics)

Family Media Standard (Fight the New Drug)

Petra’s Power to See by Educate and Empower Kids (book - Family Media Plan included)

GKIS Connected Family Screen Agreement (Get Kids Internet Safe)

Family Technology Plan (Better Screen Time) 

Screen Time in the Mean Time: A Parenting Guide to Get Kids and Teens Internet Safe by Dr. Tracy Bennett (book)

The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age

 by Catherine Steiner Adair (book)