6 Ways to Overcome the Screen Time "Battle" during Covid-19 (hint... let it go!)

I've always been an advocate for play.

Normally, I'd rather send my three children into the backyard at seven in the morning with a silent prayer that the neighbours won't complain than to put the TV on.

Normally, when the inevitable "what can we do?" arises, my suggestions are always a long list of books, games, puzzles, role playing, adventure and other playful pursuits.

Normally, we have very clear limits on the use of screens and devices, knowing that without them, my small humans could quite quickly tumble down the rabbit hole of the internet... never to emerge again! 

But, these are not normal times. 

This is the time of parenting and educating through COVID-19.

This is the time that I am sure none of us ever planned for.

This is the time where the vast majority of children are learning from home. This is the time where many parents are working from home.

This is the time where early childhood services are experiencing decreased attendance and yet, are trying to remain connected to the children that they care for. 

This is not the time to be militant about screen time use. 

A number of years ago, we were fortunate enough to bring Professor Peter Gray to Australia for some speaking events. Peter's book Free to Learn is highly recommended and his research and writings often leave me deep in thought. But, when Peter suggested that we (as a society) are perhaps on the wrong path with limiting screen time, I was surprised. My initial thought was... is he crazy? This man has inspired so much of my thinking and understanding about play and he is telling me not to limit screen time? 

After my initial shock, I absorbed what Professor Gray was saying and one sentence particularly resonated with me: "technology is a tool of our time." 

And perhaps this has never been more true than right now.

Technology is enabling our entire Inspired team to work from home and yet stay connected to one another, and to our clients, throughout the day. 

Technology is being used by schools across the country to provide learning materials to children engaged in sudden "home-schooling". 

Technology is keeping us connected to loved ones. 

And yet, there are parents, all around the country (and no doubt, the world) who are experiencing a daily battle with themselves, who are feeling guilty about the amount of screen time that their children are having right now. To those parents (and myself!), I say - read Peter Grays work now! 

Child, Girl, Young, Caucasian, Childhood, Daughter

So what do we do about the screen time battle? 

Stop battling! This is a time for love, connection and "getting through", being at loggerheads with children about their use of screens on a regular basis is not helpful for anyone. Here are a few simple things you can do to help:

  1. Play with your child. Often when children say that they have nothing to do, it means that they have no one to play with. If my children ask to play the Nintendo and I suggest that I play a board game with them instead, they will say yes - 100% of the time. 
  2. Accept that there will be parts of the day or week where screen time use will be higher than others. 
  3. Get out of the house for exercise daily. Even if it is just a walk around the block or a bounce on the trampoline. 
  4. Model screen free alternatives. It can be difficult to insist that children stay off screens when our eyes are glued to them. 
  5. Talk to children. Depending on the age of the child, many children, when given the opportunity can engage in conversation and negotiation to make decisions around screen time that work for the whole household. Discuss the health implications (in simple terms) of too much time on screens and empower them to set their own healthy limits. 
  6. Repeat after me - this will not be forever. Right now, we are in a state of survival, of doing what works and what keeps us all afloat. Know that when this is over, you can hit the playground or the BMX track, you can adventure at the beach or climb a mountain, you can meet up with friends and visit the local library. School will be back! Maybe you can even start a PCV list (Post Coronavirus!) of all the things you want to do as a family. 

So, as you are reading this on your screens, perhaps feeling guilty about the consumption of digital tech in your household right now - STOP. Stop feeling guilty. Stop pressuring yourself to have the perfect, instagrammable isolation. Stop battling with your little ones (or big ones!) about screens. Go and give them a cuddle and be kind to yourself.

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