Approach to Screen Time

April 2nd, 2022
kids
Screens can be really engrossing, and learning moderation is pretty hard. This is one of a small number of places (along with staying up as late as they want and eating as many sweets as they'd like) where an approach of letting our kids play with them as much as they want doesn't seem like it would be something that they were happy with in retrospect. The main issue I see here is in crowding out other things: when not on screens the kids do a lot of social, physical, and/or imaginative things that I think are pretty good for them. Not all screen time is equal from my perspective, either. If they're, say, getting better at reading I'm happy for them to do a lot more of that than if they're playing a video game fun alone.

I don't feel like we have the perfect approach here, and we've gone through a few different systems, but this is what we're currently using:

  • Podcasts and audio books: unlimited. I have a bunch of story tapes that my grandmother recorded for us, and Lily especially enjoys them. Let me know if you want a link.

  • Messaging, blogging: unlimited, though they don't do these very much.

  • Learning games: unrestricted before breakfast on weekends and between dinner and bedtime snack. If they think something (a program or a portion of a program) should count as a learning game they need to bring it to us and demonstrate that it is. Once a quarter all precedents are cleared and they need to bring games back to us, because otherwise you have "learning games" where they have mastered all of the learning portions and are just playing the games. This is primarily games like ABC Mouse and CodeSpark, though Lily recently proposed that karaoke count (which I said it was fine as long as she wasn't doing songs she knew all the lyrics to).

  • TV and movies: movie day once a week (usually on a day with bad weather) with our nanny for about an hour and a half; occasional movies together as a family.

  • Anything else: fifteen minutes a day; unlimited during long car trips and airplane rides. If they are playing a game together (End it isn't just one of them watching the other one play) then they can pool their time and play for a half an hour.

I asked the kids what they thought of the rules:
  • Anna: they're good.
  • Lily: they're ok.
I asked what they'd do if they were a parent:
  • Lily: If I was a parent I would change the fifteen minutes to ten minutes. Screen time is kind of bad for kids. I also like having an hour and a half for movies, but I think maybe it's a bit much?

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