Parenting and Screentime

Hello Readers!  I want to talk about a topic today that, while not completely enforced in my house, is a heartburn topic for me: our addiction to screens.  Now, my husband and I have smartphones, and they have replaced a landline in our household.  However, our son is a month away from his first birthday party and not yet at the age of having a smartphone or an electronic device.  That doesn’t stop me from already having rules in place about smartphones or electronic devices, and it shouldn’t stop you either.

Now, I know that in today’s busy world of smartphones and social media, it’s hard to set rules about screentime when we are constantly checking our phones and scrolling through our Facebook newsfeed or checking out the latest pin on Pinterest.  I’m guilty of it, too.  But I follow a few basic rules about my screentime in order to set an example for my son and any future children I might have.  My husband and I even have rules about it, and I am not afraid to enforce those rules with him.

Our rules are simple: first and foremost, no screens allowed at the table.  Period.  Whether we are out at a restaurant or at home eating, I do not allow screens to interfere with our family time.  Instead, we talk about our days or share jokes or news that we’ve heard in the day.  We have actual discussions every time we eat together, and we have since we started dating.  It’s important to me to maintain this rule because it engages our abilities to further develop our son’s language and socialization skills.  Even when my husband is at work and it’s just the kiddo and me I still focus on talking with him at mealtimes.  It’s important to establish this routine so that, when he gets older, he understands the importance of discussion and intellectual conversation during mealtimes.

Now, I rarely want to tell my readers what to do, but I beg each of you-for your kid’s sake- to try this out at least for one meal per day, even if that meal is eaten at a restaurant.  Every time I visit a restaurant, be it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, I am constantly annoyed by the manner in which people engage with their children.  Often, I see kids stare at their parents while the parents scroll through their phones, or the kids will start acting out with bad behavior just to get their parents’ attention.  It pains me because I know that our kids are so important to us and they shouldn’t have to act out just to get our attention.  So, I beg you to put your phone down and have a conversation with your kids.  That newsfeed can wait.  Your children need you, and you should enjoy your time with them before it’s too late.

Now, I know what some of  you may be thinking: mealtimes are my only time to catch up on my newsfeed.  But, picture this: smartphones came out in 2008, and social media has only been around for the past decade or so.  Before that, we may have checked the internet for news or watched it on television, but it wasn’t readily available as it is today.  And while it is so easy to stay on top of the latest news today, the quality of news has gone downhill.  At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what Kanye’s latest antic was.  It doesn’t matter what stupid thing was said by a politician.  The news will still be there after your meal.  The difference will be in your children and in their relationship with you.  And, if those mealtimes truly are your only time to check in, it might be time to re-evaluate your priorities or adjust your daily routine to find time.

I know what it’s like to feel like you never have time for anything, let alone checking your phone.  You may be a working mom, or a single parent, who comes home from a long day at work and has a household to manage.  Believe me, I get it.  I watch my sister-who works full time as a teacher (a very demanding and sometimes thankless job) and has a houseful of two kids, two dogs, two cats, and takes college courses on the side to maintain her teaching license (a necessary part of her career)-struggle to stay on top of it.  While her husband helps out, she comes home every day from her full time job to start her shift as a full time mom and homemaker.  She maintains a semi-clean home, helps her kids with their homework, and cooks dinner all after a full day of work.

I get it.  I see it in my sister just as I saw it in my mom, a Sp. Ed. Specialist, growing up.  But I also know that where there’s a will there’s a way.  And while it may be difficult to start a screen-free mealtime at first, it will become second nature later on, and your children will-hopefully-someday look back on their childhood and remember the great conversations at every meal rather than the distant parent who was glued to their phone all the time.  Trust me; you will not lose anything but a couple of pointless newsfeeds  by doing this.  Your children are more important than Kanye or the latest political scandal.  Keep in mind that your children are the ones who will be choosing your nursing home eventually; if you want one that maintains at least somewhat of an appearance of a caring and attentive place, you might want to be a caring and attentive parent now.

So, Readers, I would love to hear from you about your own experiences with screentime or what rules you have established in your own homes.  What tips can you share with all of us about putting the phones down and having some quality family time?

Until next time,

-BBM

 

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