2 Terrible Ways To Use Screen Time

If you’ve read the latest guidelines from the World Health Organization in regards to young children and screen time, you may be wondering if any screen time has been good for your little one. While I completely support the WHO’s belief in no screen time for babies and toddlers at all, it can be difficult to figure out the best way to use screen time for older kiddos. 

Here are two ways not to use screen time:

1) Distraction

Grocery stores, restaurants, and the car. Three places I’m sure you’ve given in to your little one’s demands and handed over your phone (I hear you, I’ve been there too). There are only so many ways to keep them entertained while scratching off your grocery list. Food takes FOREVER to arrive when they’re dying of hunger. And who really likes to be forced into a specific chair with restraints for an undetermined amount of time? 

Waiting is such a hard skill for young children to master, especially in our fast-paced world. It may seem like handing over a phone or tablet is a great way to solve their unhappiness. As much as it may help short-term to keep them happy or quiet, there are more important skills to be learned by not using screen time to distract. 

Children need to go through situations that aren’t fun. Sometimes we have to do things that just aren’t child-centered. They need to learn what waiting really means and how to wait. 

But it doesn’t have to be screaming and tears the whole time either. Kids shouldn’t be silenced just to look like they “behave.”  Finding a balance without relying on a screen gives them skills that they will need as future adults. Skills like patience, controlling emotional outbursts, grit, and consideration for others are HUGE skills you can help them develop.

Let’s think of the restaurant scenario again. Eating 10 bowls of chips and salsa can only help for so long. Now they’re starting to get louder, restless, hungry, etc. Instead of distracting them with a phone, have a conversation about how much waiting sucks. Be honest with them. Share how much you hate waiting too. Have a conversation about who could eat more right now (“I’m so hungry I could eat 100 slices of pizza.”) 

2) Boredom

Doesn’t it always seem they get bored as we get busy? While it may be easy to put on a movie or play a game on your phone, it does not allow children to solve being bored on their own. This is creating a habit that will last a lifetime.

Instead, give them time to be bored. Let them sulk and hate every option around them until something sparks their interest. Kids that have opportunities to be bored also have opportunities to be creative. They have to make something in their world fun. It may lead to a little mischief (don’t worry, everything can be cleaned up), but it will also lead to fun.

Parenting in a world where screen-time seems as normal as changing diapers can be tricky to navigate. While there will always be some good uses for screen time, holding off during times in need of distraction or to avoid boredom will help find a better balance.

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