Monday, May 12, 2014

Screen Time

There are few topics that create as much tension or cause as much confusion as screen time. I had no intention of posting about it. This blog has been intended as a resource for Montessori Inspired activities for use in a home environment.  We all know that no one actually needs to read yet another post about letting our kids watch TV or not. 

So fear not, this is not an anti-screen time rant. I love TV. I love my computer. I love it when my kids watch TV. I wanted to write this post because we spent the last week without it all and I am so excited to share our experience and what I've learned. 

This past week was National Screen Free Week. A week that I really really want to like it. I want it to be a week that I realize "Hey! we are on the right track! My kids don't care about TV." But they do and I do and it just shows how much I rely on the black box with moving pictures. 

I decided to watch them carefully this week. I wanted to see what happened when I removed it. And guess what? It wasn't the end of the world. They played. They worked together. They came up with cool games of hide and seek and built traps and towers and took care of the chickens. They read books by themselves and to each other. They took legitimate breaks and we were able to visit museums during "naptime" so they were totally empty.  It was the beauty of free play that occurs only when kids experience true boredom. 

A few months back I was able to go to a lecture by Peter Gray, author of Free to Learn. If you haven't read it yet, you should. He shocked just about everyone in the audience with a statement about screen time. He felt that they should have no limits. That kids should be allowed to explore and that some kids will naturally want more than others. That they are learning. And that they will self regulate. 

I'm sure you can tell how this went over. In a room full of granola parents who are anti traditional everything and many of whom have never let their kids watch ten minutes of Daniel Tiger, Gray has the audacity to tell them they were doing it wrong. 

I felt a little justified in the moment. "See!!! I am not killing my kid! I should be letting them watch MORE!" 

So how do you resolve these two extremes? The kids who normally fight and bicker constantly over everything were working together when I removed one aspect of their day. How do I incorporate the good (science tv shows, educational games) without creating zombies who can't think for themselves? 

Lisa Guernsey wrote a book called Screen Time in which she talks about the research that exists behind kids and screens. This should be high on any parents list of books to read. Her main thesis states that the most important factors are context, your own child, and content.  Not all screen time is bad, but you may be surprised by which ones are. There are few books with legitimate research in them, so go read this one! Please. 

So where did we land this week? We decided to bring back the time cards. These are simple cards with an amount of time on them that the kids can turn in to watch a show or play games. Each kid gets one a day and there is an optional additional card if work is finished early. 

I made the ones pictured by cutting cardstock and sticking number stickers on the front. Than I laminated them and stuck a magnet on the back so they can stay on the fridge.  I write with a dry erase marker the kids names on it.

Find out what works for your family and go with it. Read up on this topic from reliable resources. The books I mentioned above are awesome. Nurture Shock is another one. This works for us and I am super excited to implement it again.

How do you resolve this? 

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