The National Press Club hosted an Interdisciplinary Summit on Children and Screen Time November 1 with several pediatric media experts who have been involved in the first-ever special supplement to the journal Pediatrics on the issue of children and screen time. The non-profit organization Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development convened the summit and sponsored the Pediatrics supplement.
Simplicity Parenting is one of the books I had out last week at the Holistic Moms Arlington/Alexandria daytime meeting on “Supporting Children’s Emotional Health,” and I was excited when a member told me the book’s author, Kim John Payne, was coming to speak on October 11 at a daylong event organized by Acorn Hill Waldorf Kindergarten and Nursery, which is celebrating its 50th year serving families in Takoma Park.
The flyer for the Saturday event reads: “Looking for ways to support children in being calmer and happier, more focused at school, finding it easier to comply with family rules and become less picky eaters?” The school elaborates: “In this lecture and workshop, Kim explains why less is more and presents four simplicity pathways you can take to help your child feel calmer, happier and more secure. This is the work and the workshop which provided the inspiration for Kim’s book by the same name (published in August 2009). It presents not only the four simple steps, but examples of how to bring “the power of less” into your home on a daily basis.”
The event runs 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, October 11, and is taking place not at the school (which has one of the most amazing natural play areas I’ve ever seen!) but rather at Silver Spring Civic Building, One Veterans Place, Silver Spring, MD 20910 (GPS: use 8525 Fenton Street), three blocks from the Silver Spring Metro Transit Station. Click here for parking information. Payne will lecture 9-11 a.m. Lunch follows 11-12 and is provided in the $60 fee (or $55 per person if coming as a couple or pair); vegetarian options and some gluten-free options are available. Then, from 12 to 3 p.m. will be the workshop portion of the day. Register at www.acornhill.org.
There are a lot of Simplicity Parenting pieces I have tried to incorporate into our family life, including scheduling in quiet time and do-nothing days and limiting media. So far this school year we’ve stuck to no weekday screen time. Well, not counting Nationals baseball highlights. I expected my daughter would attend a Waldorf preschool like her brother, but when she was offered a spot in the Montessori class at my son’s public magnet school, we saw how much simpler it would be for the family to have them in the same place with the same daily schedule. If I hadn’t had chronic health issues, we might have still done the two-school shuffle, but in the absence of perfect, consistent and streamlined will have to do!
Bring up the topic of “screen time” at the playground or sports practice, and chances are you’ll catch some parents rolling their eyes, either because 1) they can’t stand screen time in principle or because of how it makes their kids behave and/or 2) give in to it out of habit or perceived necessity, or 3) think that limits on it are overrated and are sick of hearing they need to change fix something in their homes that isn’t broken.
Wherever you stand on the issue at this particular moment in time, it’s worth noting that last week was
Screen-Free Week. For suggestions on going screen-free, see the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.
We’d love to hear in the comments and on Facebook if you participated – and how.
Emily’s post is adapted from a radio show that can be found at www.The-American-Family.com.
My recurring segment on The American Family is entitled Mindful Parenting . I recently took on the video game debate and made some suggestions for how video games can reasonably be integrated into a family routine.
In my household, video games are the coveted reward, the one thing my two older sons can agree on for “down time” after a week of busy school schedules, sports, and chores.
Many parents struggle with how to allow – or even if to allow – video games for their children. When we hear about kids playing for hours on end, sitting in front of the screen, it scares many parents into feeling like there’s no room for opening that Pandora’s box they may never be able to close. Also, some of us treat games on iPads as if they’re not video games. Let me be clear that when I refer to video games here, I’m talking about all electronic games. Even the ones on your phone.
Here are some guidelines to use for allowing video games, if you can believe that they don’t have to poison your child. These are my opinions, based on my experience in raising 4 boys, two of whom are now 14 and 7. (The other two are under the age of 3).
- Check out the games yourself. Do a Google search. You will find detailed information and plenty of opinions on how old someone should be to play it (besides the rating on the box). Common Sense Media is a great go-to for parents regarding anything media-related.
- Allow yourself to enjoy playing. Yes, I said it. YOU can play. Just accept that you may be terrible. Your kids will delight in your mistakes, which can humanize you in their eyes.
- Let your kids be the experts. Sit back and watch when you can, asking questions to figure out what’s going on (you may or may not have a clue once they’re finished telling you). But at least you noticed and cared.
- Be open to learning something about your child. Watching how they play can give you a new perspective on strengths that your kids possess, which you can reference the next time they need help figuring out something like a math problem.
- Video games require patience, problem-solving, persistence, creativity, quick thinking, cooperation, teamwork, and hand-eye coordination. Help your kids get the most out of the skill-building elements.
- Limit the time for playing. Kids don’t need to play for hours on end. The warning on the box of one of my seven-year-old’s games says take a break every 30 minutes or 20 minutes if playing in 3D mode. I like to use a general rule that even on the weekends for my 14-year-old, two hours is the max. I may let him go back to it later if he’s had a really productive day and deserves a bonus of some kind. My 7-year-old can play for an hour at the most. I don’t recommend allowing video games on the weekdays.
- With kids under age 10, be sure they have plenty of non-electronic playing time. Kids need to explore and experience the real world. I’ve worked at schools where I’ve noticed that kids who played video games often and excessively had a hard time with patience. They demand instant gratification. They constantly needed stimulation and attention. This is not conditioning you want for your child and it will possibly lead to a needy, annoying personality.
- Use the games to help reinforce fantasy vs. reality. Make sure the children grasp that if they try to jump from one building to another in real life, they’d most surely be in the hospital in a lot of pain. Don’t take all the fun out of it, but do check in periodically to make sure they get the idea.
- Be clear on which games they can play, and stick to it. Pay attention to when they may be ready for a game that’s more advanced, and this will help them to respect your guidelines, even if at a friend’s house.
- Finally, be intentional with building character with your kids. You need to be able to trust that they know right from wrong in most situations, and you are the one who has to teach them. Use their media exposure and real life examples to build on their understanding of how to treat people. When you do that, you can feel more secure in knowing that they will keep things separated and make safe decisions (like not trying to act out a violent video game inappropriately).
So, to wrap it up, use your reasonable judgment and trust your kids. You may be pleasantly surprised by how you enjoy that time with your kids, as well as enjoying the game yourself!
Emily Griffin is a native Washingtonian, wife, and mother of four biracial sons in a blended family. She is the founder of Happy Parents, Happy Babies, LLC, which is her private practice devoted to in-home parent counseling, coaching, and support in the DC area.
Emily is offering a free 50-minute consultation to one lucky winner. Consultation will be held at a meeting location within 10 miles of Takoma Park (zip code 20912).
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Contact Emily at emilygriffinlicsw (at) gmail (dot) com for a free 20-minute phone consultation or learn more at www.happyparentshappybabies.com.
Follow Emily on Twitter at @HappyP_HappyB
If you’ve been waiting for a reason to unplug your family, take advantage of this week! (And if you haven’t been waiting for a reason, check out this NPR piece on how plugged-in parenting is negatively affecting our kids).
Maybe the weather will cooperate, and with a little planning you can extend after-school playtime all the way up to the time your kids help you make something fun for dinner.
See what’s growing in the garden. Weed it. Or plant seeds for the first time.
Plan a picnic. Or just eat outside at a restaurant where you can’t see CNN or ESPN from the patio.
If allergies are keeping you from getting outside this week, consider spending some craft time to make mother’s day art projects for grandmothers, or get a jump on father’s day!
If going off screens seems nearly impossible, and you feel like you need some kind of input that is not you or your children with just each other (because not afternoon is full of skipping around the room with smiles), at least try just a soundtrack instead of the whole visual feast that is whatever movie your kids are begging for. Children could draw what they hear people singing about and make their own storybooks, act out the music with puppets, act it out in costume.
If you find yourself about to cave, consider limiting screen time to watching family videos or photo slideshows. (A little bird told me that Shutterfly has 40% off photobooks and other stuff through Tuesday, May 6 at 11:59 p.m.!)
And heck, I might even let my son read about Screen-Free Week on my screen for a few moments. I could print something, but if he gets to read on the screen and click a few times, that might buy me some, well, buy-in on skipping screens for the rest of the week. And maybe his little sister will listen to him.
Those of you out there who don’t have full-time childcare but still manage to regularly eschew screens of all types, please do let us all in on how you make it work! (And still feed your family. And bathe, at least sometimes.)
We’d love to hear in the comments and on Facebook about works for you. And for the rest of us, please let us know if you’re choosing to participate this week or not and why. Share your strategies and status updates! Or, better yet,
just share your planned-for strategies, then put down your device, and forget the updates until the week is over!