My family spends a lot of time on “screens”. In fact, we have unlimited screen time. I suspect we spend less (or not more than) most American families on screens, but I bet we spend far less time engaged in screen time because we don’t fight about it. We don’t regulate it. We don’t devote time to developing deals and contracts around who gets how much time on which “device”. We don’t yell and scream because it’s been taken away or because it’s going to be taken away.
Unlimited screen time is just a regular part of our lives. Sometimes hours are spent on “screens”. Sometimes whole days go by and we don’t use one. None of it is a big deal. We haven’t created a hard to obtain commodity. It’s not the Golden Ring or a coveted luxury. We also have not thrown our hands up and said “pffft. Well. I guess the kids win. Unlimited screen time it is. I’m tired of fighting.” We are engaged. We are aware. We are connected. We recognize technology for what it is: just another important tool for learning and living in our world.
Judgment is a Popular American Past Time and Unlimited Screen Time is No Exception
On a recent Facebook post someone commented about how sad it is to see a family out at dinner all on their devices “not connecting” (with each other). The thread that followed did a good job illustrating many reasons this may not be true. There was one reason that was not addressed though.
If a child is sitting at a restaurant playing the switch, for example, it may be because he was really close to leveling up but also wanted to go to dinner with the family. In many families (that I personally know) the whole family would be excited and cheering him on- and might order a special dessert to celebrate his success! Mom, Dad and sister may be checking in with him to see how close he is. They might exclaim “oh no!” with him when he backpedals. They might peer over his shoulder to see how it’s going. They might be really invested in the outcome.
Onlookers might think “how sad. That child is so disconnected. He is just sitting there starting at a screen. I can’t believe his parents don’t even care” when really, that child is celebrated, loved, supported and CONNECTED with for exactly who he is! Really, you can’t get more connected than that.
Unlimited Screen Time: Why are we Judging our Kids Instead of Connecting?
There are lots of other examples and lots of other reasons children or whole families might be on a screen/s at a restaurant; parent/child with autism, recent family loss, they’ve been intensely battling out a game of Risk over the last two days and need to not talk for a while, they’ve just gotten back from a stressful dinner with extended family and need to decompress, I could go on and on with more examples. So could many of you (and please do in the comments).
The main point of this post though is this: when we vilify a family for being disconnected because they are on screens it makes us look foolish. To me it’s the equivalent of vilifying long hair and Rock and Roll music. It’s archaic and ignorant.
Do some parents check out when they shouldn’t? Absolutely. Myself included. Whether that’s on a phone, a screen, a newspaper, or just staring into space the underlying issue isn’t the medium used.
Furthermore, many parents of gamers understand it’s a passion for their child and embrace it, get excited about it, and support it. We see how much they learn from gaming and how their esteem is raised by being supported in what they love. If you think back to your own childhood can you imagine a time things would have turned out far better if your parents had embraced and supported your passions instead of judging, trivializing, condemning, and dismissing it? I think we all can. Our children will too.
If you think back on that personal example do you think you would have been more or less connected with your parent if they’d gotten excited about your interests? Whether it was heavy metal music, comics , BMX racing, jewelry making, stuffed animals, or something else, what would it have been like if your mom or Dad had jumped right in with you and gotten excited about it?
It might be worth thinking about that. It might be a good use of time to take those realizations and examine them in the context of “screens”. Because in my experience, I’ve gotten to know my children so much better from loving the things they love instead of bashing them. And I mean all the things they love- not just the ones I deem worthy.