Let’s talk screen time, this topic can really get a debate going. I am not here to point fingers or dish out guilt. As a parent, I can honestly say that the line that really rings true on any subject for me is there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to raising kids.
First things first, What is Screen Time? Screen time is the amount of time spent using a device with a screen, this can be a smartphone, computer, television, or video game console. In the last couple of years, the regulation of screen time has really been under the magnifying glass for both children and adults. We have been so focused on regulating our children’s exposure to screens and technology that we seemed to have missed our own addiction.
That brings me to the second topic of this post, quality time. What is quality time, and why is it important for our children and our families? Even when they are toddlers children crave quality time with their parents. Quality time is time spent with your children and giving them your undivided attention doing activities that they like to do. Undivided attention, what a loaded phrase. This is harder than I thought, I am very guilty of reaching for my phone when I am on the floor ‘playing’ with the kids. Being a stay-at-home mom has me reaching for my device more than I would like to admit – it has become my tool to escape.
So instead of playing the guilt game, let’s get together and share some positive plans on how we as parents and caregivers can effectively swap screen time for quality time with our little humans and even our spouses or partners. And it’s easier than ever to give a whiny kid your phone so that you can finish that restaurant meal or a shopping trip in piece.
Children need as little as 10 to 15 minutes of quality time with a parent a day. Come on guys, that is not a lot. That is 10 to 15 minutes per child per day. Obviously the more time you invest, the deeper the connection will be that you build with your family. Isn’t it ironic that all of the connectivity that surrounds us is creating constant disconnection in our homes and relationships?
How can we swap screen time for quality time? Here are a few of our favourite suggestions:
We live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. I am not saying put pressure on yourself to go outside every day. We are talking 10 to 15 minutes – try to make a commitment as a family to go for one walk together on a weekend.
Let’s be realistic, meals can get very messy (literarily and figuratively). Breakfast can feel too rushed, Lunch is tricky because everyone is not together and dinner can be demanding when you have little ones who need to get to bed. So pick a meal that fits into your family's lifestyle and schedule. Try talking about the highs and lows of the day and what they are excited about this week. It creates an effortless connection in a matter of minutes and nurtures a healthy habit for your family.
Marking a date on the calendar makes it official, harder to just pass by and forget about. It is so rewarding to commit to a date with each of your family members. Yes, I mean everyone. Try making one-on-one dates with each member of the family and even encourage older siblings and teens to make special time for each other to just do something together even if it’s just going for a run. Putting aside the time to spend time with my 4-year-old has become priority and she just needs 30mins a week where I am not busy with her brother or the household chores.
Board games or fun little activities are a great way to swap screen time for quality time. I used Ceres’s Beki Bag to do this in the early days when we were at home alone with her new baby brother. She could pick an activity from the zipper bags to do while I was nursing the baby. We have also been enjoying a game of snakes and ladders when there is loadshedding. And as she grows we can play more complicated games, it is amazing to see when it clicks and she gets how the game works.
So instead of trying to restrict screen time find ways to create balance and reward. The time that we invest in our families is never wasted and somehow we always have an excuse for why we are taking the time to do it.