Managing Screen Time

This week I tackle one of the most common parenting issues of our day: how to manage our kids’ screen time.

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It’s not an easy question to answer. I talked to one mom who doesn’t have a TV–they watch all their videos online. But that’s not a perfect solution either. Sometimes you’re watching a clip on YouTube and you have no idea what kind of ad might pop up, or what other video clips might get suggested at the end.

Some people have hard and fast rules – no screen time on weekdays, only so many minutes per day – but that can be tricky (or exhausting) to enforce, and there will always be room for exceptions. Two-thirds of  us were feeling lousy on the weekend (X and I were the only healthy people standing), so we spent more time than usual vegging in front of screens.

I think the main thing as a parent is to maintain an element of control. As I mentioned in the column, we have password-protected all our devices so the kids can’t just use them whenever. They have to ask us first.

We also don’t have cable, so we have control over what they watch. No accidentally turning on something inappropriate, and no ads.

I won’t begin to pretend that we are the ideal family when it comes to screen time, but I think this is where we’ve succeeded so far: we’ve kept our kids from being bombarded by advertising or over-exposed to pop culture that they’re really not ready for yet.

Some might call it sheltering, but I’m glad my seven-year-old doesn’t know any Flo Rida songs and can’t name a single member of One Direction.  At the risk of sounding like a cliche, we have a responsibility to make sure our kids don’t grow up too fast. It might seem like it’s a tougher battle in the days of instant access to everything, but it’s still our battle to fight and win.

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