Love em or hate em. Screens are here to stay. Every generation of parents has its challenges and I'm gonna put it out there - screens cause 99% of the fights in our household, I bet they probably do in your household too. I believe they're a far greater threat to family relationships than ANY other generational invention to date.
In my day as a kid (and ok this is going back a little way now) it didn't take too long to get bored of Donkey Kong or Mario or the 2 or 3 TV channels available for our viewing pleasure. If boredom didn't end your session than completing all levels eventually did and it would be at least several months before you would be able to get your hands on a new game so you would end your time and go outside and play - or at least indoor creative play with friends or siblings. Now there is an endless supply of games available to them on a multitude of platforms - too many for my boys to even check out - let alone play. If kids aren't into gaming then there's always endless hours of youtube to watch or youtube videos to make. Girls seem to be drawn more to social media and can spend hours upon hours lost down the abyss of whichever social media portal they choose to throw themselves down. They now also have 100's of tv channels to choose from. Let's face it - we as parents know all too well how easy it is to spend all day on screens - in fact most of us do wether it's for work or pleasure - we're all just as sucked in as our kids.
Harmful to health
A mate of a mate recently filmed a documentary for the BBC on teenagers living in the UK. The good news is UK teenagers don't seem to be into alcohol and drugs anymore. Great news right? Maybe, or maybe not. What's replacing house wrecking parties fuelled by booze and drugs? Lone teens in bedrooms, boys wanking themselves senselessly to mind numbing porn and girls "socialising" for hours and well into the night on screens. Most parents have no idea how to restrict their internet for child or teen appropriate content so for all we know they could be watching absolutely anything - and nowadays that's a truly scary concept. You can watch anything from beheadings, murdering psychopaths and deep throating with a few easy clicks. Seriously makes me queasy just thinking about it.
But can we blame this purely on the invention of screens? Maybe one day we'll actually notice that the logo for apple is a bitten apple - hello people... a bite from the forbidden fruit?! (Half joking). Perhaps because we have also managed to scare ourselves and our kids into the idea that playing on the street is dangerous, that someone "might" kidnap them. I don't think that's helping our cause much. We've become a society dominated by fear and with what MIGHT happen. The school my kids goes to has as much security as a low security prison. What's that teaching them? Be afraid kids... be very afraid of people on the outside. We will keep you safe. Bollocks to that! Some security sure - but swipe cards on every door? Honestly. So - the fear of letting our kids OUT to play has never been higher, so what choice do kids have?
Teenage suicide is at an all time high. There are kids and teenagers suffering from sleep deprivation, obesity, vision problems, aches and pains, loss of social skills and aggression due to screens. Somehow this seems so much scarier than kids fooling around with drugs and alcohol and at least they were doing that together and learning how to socialise.
So how do we overcome our great screen battle? Firstly we need to think off our kid as junkies... screen junkies! So rules MUST be adhered to.
Rule 1 - restrict screen time. Maximum of 2 hours a day and that's including TV.
Rule 2 - If a screen is needed for homework than that screen should be used in a common area where you can monitor what it's being used for.
Rule 3 - Don't make screens available to kids outside of screen time - NO EXCUSES! They might say that they want their device for music etc. but no is NO!
Rule 4 - Don't let kids use screens to suit you. This is probably the reason for why our kids may have an addiction in the first place. (Pretty sure it's why mine do - I put my hands up.)
Rule 5 - NEVER...EVER let your kids go to bed with a screen.
Rule 6 - Lead by example. Minimise YOUR screen time as much as possible.
Once your kid has got a grip on what an acceptable time frame for screen usage is and turning it off doesn't create tantrums or tears then it is time for us to teach them how to use screens to benefit them. I don't believe everything available on line is negative. Far from it. There is a world of creativity, learning and valuable information. There are some great games that require a lot of skill and imagination. We can also connect with our kids through screens. Sometimes as a family we sit down with youtube and take turns in choosing clips to watch and it can be a great way to bridge the technology gap.
Most importantly of all - monitor what your kids are watching and get some restrictions put on your IP address.
When kids are using their device predominantly for social media, it can be a much harder challenge to restrict their time but it's not impossible. As their anger and pure hate for you simmers down you'll find that they'll start to spend more time with the family. Ultimately we are sociable creatures. Invite more of their friends over with the rule of no screens. Bake cookies together, build lego, draw, make Christmas cards. Get them playing an instrument, sing together and laugh together. Our first step to reconnecting is getting rid of screens but we need to replace it with human contact (seeing we don't just turf them out to play on the streets anymore). Play games with our children again, build a cubby house - teach them the games we used to play - charades, musical statues, it's never too late. And before you use the sorry excuse that you don't have time....remember the number one regret of the dying - I WISH I SPENT MORE TIME WITH MY FAMILY and LESS TIME WORKING! Besides that - they're kids for a millisecond - now is our time to embrace them. If you happen to have someone else caring for your kids before you get home from work, ensure that they are spending more time connecting directly with your children and not using screens to do their job. After all your paying them a big chunk of your salary to replace you... so make sure they're doing their job properly.
Side Note #screenfreesundaychallenge
I'm up for starting a national screen free challenge on a Sunday to reconnect the old fashioned way if only for a moment. Imagine walking the streets and no one has a phone, or sitting in a cafe where people are with people and not laptops. Our kids deserve to see what a screen free world look like. Who's In?
Here's a great post from the Huffington with some very useful tips: