Screen Time - The Kid and I
Part 1 of 2 - Setting intentions around our time on devices.
Anne and I are struggling with our daughter Harper's screen time. This battle is probably familiar to any parents reading this. She's now two and she already knows how to open up an iPad, swipe to YouTube or Amazon Prime and start a show. She's either the smartest kid ever or more likely the iPad is totally intuitive for a two year-old.
Screen Time For Kids
We’re not experts, but I want to share some ideas we are having. If you have any tips I would love to hear them, please comment below or email me. I don't have any problem with her watching an occasional show on the iPad just like we watched occasional TV. I think of them as analogous, even though the iPhone is a thousand times more powerful than the old TV we had to walk up to to click to another channel during Saturday morning cartoons growing up.
“TV will melt your brain” my grandparents would say. When I watch her watching the screen sometimes I feel the same way. She gets sucked in and deeply immersed, disengaging from the world around her. When it's time to turn it off, tempers flare.
I've started to try to go analog by controlling what she watches rather than the next thing that the YouTube algorithm brings up. Usually, some CGI-rendered bubble show. I'm digging up classic episodes of Sesame Street or Electric Company, but who knows if they're any better. They certainly are nostalgic for me. I figure if I'm watching with her and singing songs, at least we're engaging as we're watching together.
We're also doing the best to practice what we preach. It's hard to tell Harper no screens in bed in the morning, if I sit there and read the New York Times on our phone, its still is a screen to her even if it is news to us. I'd love to hear any ideas that work for you in managing screen time in your household.
Screen Time at Work
I’m also trying to manage my own personal screen time. I know I'm happier the less time each day I spend staring at a screen. I also know that work will expand to fill the time you spend staring at your screen.
I’ve validated this for myself with little experiments over the last year. I turned on an autoresponder over vacation this summer, came back and had a couple hours worth of emails to clean up. I try to check emails once or twice on most days in the week and then spend one day processing through what's built up over the week. I recently started utilizing the voice-to-text built into the iPhone and that really is a time-saver.
Responding to email is not work, it is working on someone else’s priorities.
Am I working on the urgent or the important?
I track my weekly Screen Time notification each Sunday. I average over three hours daily. I'd like to keep it to under two, and that delta invariably is time on social media. It's easy to get caught up in the scroll on Instagram or Twitter. I deleted Facebook long ago, although I know they're still monetizing my attention through Instagram.
Social Media Mantra
This device is for creating not consuming.
I not trying to banish the iPhone from my life. It's made my life and work much more effective with the tools for creation. I love the pictures the cameras take the stories that we capture on video.
A book I highly recommend is Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. It helped me create a number of good habits like:
Decluttering my home screen, I have only 5 work apps on my home screen.
Making my phone to black and white, so it's less appealing to pick up.
Turning off all notifications beeps, buzzes and red icons begging you to pick up the phone. I hate when my phone buzzes at me stealing moments of my attention.
A good habit that I haven’t been able to fully adopt is keeping my phone outside my bedroom at night.
I’ve also gone back to physical paper books made of paper so I don’t get distracted while reading.
Thank you for reading part 1 of my posts on Screen Time. Part 2 will be posted a week from today. As always, I look forward to your comments, and in particular any ideas you have around managing screen time.
Here are some tips I've used in the past -
1) Put the ipad in a place where kids can't reach it on their own.
2) Set specific "watching time" Watching time is in the AM from x time to x time. Or after a nap or whatever. That way you can do it at the same time and it won't be so confusing to her.
3)Set a time limit before she starts watching. You can watch x amount of shows or YT videos per watching time. When she gets older and has a better sense of time you can say you have 30min of watching time etc..
4) Consistency - You have to make sure you stick to the plan and very consistent for the first week.
5) Reinforcement - Each time she watches you remind her of the new watching agreement - remember you are going to watch two shows and then we will turn it off and go do X
6) 5min warning - You have five min left of watching and then we are going to X as we talked about before you started watching
7) Don't end the convo with "okay?" it will make her think she has a say in this. I usually end with "got it?" or "do you understand?"
8) If at first you don't succeed try try again :)