It seems to be a no-brainer – no parent really wants their kids in front of the TV all the time. But yet, kids these days are growing up very “plugged in”, from learning to type before they learn to write, from knowing how to use an iPad at the age of 2, from being able to memorize the entire Treehouse TV lineup by the time they’re 4 (Professor, I’m looking at you!). The fact of the matter is, electronics have a huge part in our kids’ lives nowadays – and it can be detrimental to their health and mental well-being.
I’ll start with myself. I’m admittedly addicted to electronics (see the guest post at Tales of an Unlikely Mother about this very subject!). Besides this blog, I have a locked blog, a Facebook, a Twitter, a Pinterest account, a LinkedIn account, and I post everything here over at BlogHer. I read all my news online and I watch a lot of TV online. I’m always reading blogs, my friends list on Facebook or my other blog, or scrolling through my Twitter feed. I have an iPhone and I carry it around constantly – I refer to it as “my security iPhone”, a play on security blanket, because I feel weird unless it’s directly in my hand. Not good, and certainly not what I want to model for the kids I look after.
I’ll also say that I don’t mind a bit of TV or iPad use among kids I look after, either. We all need breaks. I like to be able to check my email and Facebook while Junior is on the iPad for a few minutes. But when it’s all day, every single day, that’s when it becomes a problem.
I posted a few years ago about Professor and his TV addiction. He was completely focused on TV. He would cut park time short, go and wait by the car, and demand to see my phone clock so that he would know “how many more minutes” until his favourite show. His parents, the Ps, and I determined that he needed to be gently distracted away from being so focused on TV. It did work – we allowed an hour of TV a day, to be doled out for good behaviour and taken away for bad behaviour. He eventually stopped being focused on the TV so much and was more focused on playing, running around, and getting exercise and fresh air.
I looked after another family recently who had given each of their children a tablet computer for their very own. Their children were 7 and 4 years old, and went nowhere without these expensive tablets, which they threw around, jumped on, and coloured on. They were heartbroken and defiant when I suggested putting the tablets up for awhile so that we could do a craft and play. This is electronic addiction – and the lack of care for costly electronics is just the tip of the iceberg.
I try to allow some electronic use, but I prefer to be outside, at an activity, baking or doing crafts. Why sit in front of a screen when there’s so much more to do? I even try to keep my own electronics time to two or three hours a day – I don’t need to be sitting in front of a computer or television when I could be out walking, biking, or even shopping! I like to save the hardcore electronics days for rainy days, when nothing will do for any kid I look after!
Glo-Worm watches, at most, 20 minutes of TV a day. Most days she watches none. The twins watch a half hour of TV with me before bed if one of them is still awake after their bedtime, but I keep that sucker off. Same with the older kids – we don’t need more than an hour of TV during a babysitting appointment. There’s a lot more to do – and if we want to sit around and chill out, I prefer books to TV, by far.
What do you think about TV and kids? Are you addicted to electronics? How do you deal with it?