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You want a present, peaceful and playful family life? I'm here to help you make that a reality.

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Tips For Navigating Screens

The topic of screen time has been a confusing one for me.

On the one hand I’m no technophobe. I believe screens are an important part of our culture, and I predict them to be a huge part of my (unschooled) children’s education.

On the other hand, I wax nostalgic for the days when childhood was about catching frogs (and returning them gently and kindly to their natural habitat) and building forts. I get the heebie-jeebies seeing kids zombied out to sponge-bob-stupidity when the great outdoors await. 

Also, my parenting pantheon of gurus is split down the middle on this. With experts like Janet Lansbury, Dr. Laura Markham and Dr. Shefali Tsabary on the one end of the spectrum – and Dr. Peter Gray and Alfie Kohn on the other. It’s enough to send this mama crashing on the couch to watch some Modern Family or to get lost in Facebook.
Bottom line… at this point in time I feel I can strike a balance and I can make friends with the screen in my children’s lives. I think it’s important never to use the screen as a prize for good behavior or for reading. And we don’t ‘take it away’ as a punishment for something unrelated.
Instead, after the age of 2 or 3, I use it as something fun we do, as a tool to research, as a way to communicate or as a game we play. But if I see it makes my kids cranky or whiny, we take a break for a day or two. I’m very consistent with when and how much screen time is allowed, and so long as I hold that boundary clearly, it’s not an argument.

Tips For Screen Time That Resonate With Me

  1.  Look at your child’s temperament
    Some kids react worse to a “forbidden fruit” (making them want it even more), and some do better when it’s just off the table completely. See how your child thinks about screen.  If they’re very into them they may need to know there’s a consistent time/ place where they can get their fill.
  2. Let other things take priority
    If the TV is always on in the background, if the password to the tablet is free for all, if your phone is always lying around, then perhaps screens will inevitably distract from other possibilities. Instead bring them out deliberately for the times you’ve decided are screen times, and make other activities more available and exciting the rest of the day.
  3. Vet the content
    What matters most when it comes to screens, not all shows or games are created equal. Whilst I don’t think any are detrimental, I do think it’s really worth it to chose high quality shows without violence or too much movement, as these things have been shown to reduce focus.
  4. Stay fluid and in touch
    Notice how the screen is effecting your kids. Watch with them. Connect to the content together, and be there to process the values they’re being exposed to together. If your kid is using the screen to escape their feelings, try to hold them in a space where they become in-touch internally, rather than running away to a show to numb themselves.
  5. Model unplugging
    Perhaps most important of all, and most difficult. Unplug yourself and go make eye contact!How do screens work in your home? What are your tips? 
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2 Replies to “So… What’s the Peaceful Parenting Approach to Screen Time?”

  1. we do not have a tv in our home, i have a 5 year old and almost 3 year old. do you have any recommendations on games or shows if we let them use a tablet or laptop every once in awhile? im clueless to what’s out there. thank you!!

  2. We don’t have a TV in our main living area. The kids are allowed a certain amount of TV time, but the rules are clear and there are no tantrums because of this consistency.

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