Two mums share their different points of view....
Mum Deborah let's her two boys regulate their own screen time to develop their skills...
I work in Information Technology where screen time is second nature. Using an iPad, iPhone or watching television at night is how I like to relax and unwind so I figure if I enjoy it, then my boys should be allowed to do it, too. My boys are seven and two-years-old. They are allowed to watch television whenever they want and have their own iPads that are loaded with educational games and their favourite TV shows. My eldest, Gerred, has his own computer with a few games such as Minecraft on it and has access to the internet so he can use the websites he uses during school time.
The only limit I have for Gerred when it comes to screen time is no iPad or television until he is ready for school. Once he is ready he can do either. When he comes home from school he is allowed to watch television but he has to stop after a while to do his homework. Then it’s dinner, shower and bed where again he can use his iPad until lights out. I don’t put a limit on the boy’s screen time because I figure they are hardly at home anyway. Gerred is at school all day and Declan is at daycare all day, five days a week. To be honest, I find the kids regulate their own screen time. Because I don’t enforce limits it doesn’t seem like a treat or exciting to them, so they tend to watch a little bit then get bored and do something else like go outside and play together. When Gerred’s had a big day at school he does tend to watch a bit more TV but I am okay with that because he is tired and just wants to veg out.
The boys are pretty technologically savvy and I think this will be a huge benefit throughout school. Gerred’s school has introduced iPads into the kindergarten classes and as learning aids to teach the school curriculum. Nowadays most young kids know their way around an iPhone and iPad so the boys would be on the back foot at school if they didn’t know how to use them.
I sometimes get annoyed when Gerred is playing his iPad at times when things are a bit stressful and I also rely on it too much when I need to get things done like the shopping or cooking, but overall our approach to screen time works well for our family.
Mum Trish wants her daughters to interact with their world without the distraction of devices...
I didn’t want a lot of television and screen time to be part of my children’s early years. There were lots of reasons including the effect screen time might have on their developing brains. I had concerns with the fast moving cartoons as I felt they were over-stimulating and wondered how their little brains would process it. Another concern was content. I didn’t want their heads to be filled with ideas of competition, comparisons, good and bad and all the other dramatic storylines that seem to be built into kid’s TV shows.
As my girls got older, and aware television existed, they became interested in what it was. I didn’t want to deprive them of experiencing things they found interesting, but at the same time I still had a strong sense of wanting to do what I believed to be beneficial for them. At this point I entertained the idea of a little screen time, but also had to assess my energy levels of allowing this in a moderate way. I didn’t want it to be yet another thing that was pushed for every day. Sometimes none is easier than some.
It’s hard to say what effect no screen time in their first few years has had on the girls. I know they are very creative and imaginative in their play. They have solid communication and negotiation skills. They create dazzling art and love books. What I do know, however, is they learned all of this by having a lot of opportunities to interact with the world.
I heard a great term the other day, ‘digital nutrition’. I love this idea. It is not about being anti-screen time, it is about how we can use technology in a way that can have a positive outcome. My girls are now five and three and they use the Bird App on the phone to look up different birds, see what they look like and even hear what call they make. They also watch Playschool once a week.
I feel the girls got the first few years of their life to interact with the world on their terms. And what filled the space where they could have been watching television or playing with apps was play, art, books, cooking, talking, disagreements, walks and rumbles. There were times when turning on the TV may have been an easy option, but I believe we have all benefited by choosing to be in the world and interacting with it and each other.