Screening the Screen

I've had "screen time" on the brain lately while thinking about writing this post. How I feel about it, how much guilt some of us have on the subject, and what seems like a happy medium. I don't think it is as complicated as the headlines would have you believe. Have to take a business call? About to lose your cool? Turn on a quick show, hand them an iPad, whatever. Get things done, take a breath and move on. Simple, right? I think we get into trouble when we give in to the ease of "plugging kids in". It's a sure win - they love it, and it usually does an excellent job of entertaining. But is entertainment really necessary on the 10 minute ride home from school? Does your toddler need to hold an iPad in front of her face while riding in the stroller on a beautiful day? (Saw it myself this week and had to groan.) One of the main reasons JoBea Kids exists is to promote play. We want to remind you that it’s healthy to move and dance and stretch and chill. But we're moms, too, and totally get that raising kids is all about balancing the crazy. So YES to nature walks and dance parties and distraction-free conversations and hanging from the monkey bars. Emphatic YES! However, sometimes you just need to cook dinner/meet a deadline/have an uninterrupted phone call/keep yourself from losing your marbles. Screen time is a hot and guilt-inducing topic but don’t stress. Use common sense, set some ground rules, and let go of the guilt.  

Dr. Natasha Burgert, popular Kansas City pediatrician and  a nationally recognized participant in the health care social media movement, was kind enough to share her expertise.

Not all screen time is equal. Simple entertainment is exactly as it sounds. This type of media use (TV, iPad, iPhone or otherwise) should be limited to 2 hours per day for most children, 1 hour for toddlers if parents choose early introduction to media. This media is of entertainment/distraction variety that can be very valuable tools to busy families. Quality certainly matters, and more "educational" type programming is likely best.”

In other words, monitor the media your kids are interacting with and how long they’re tuned in. For example, a friend of mine sets a timer to regulate screen time into 15 minute increments sprinkled here and there. Another pal pretty much has a PBS-or-nothing rule. Find some guidelines that make sense for your family. 

“We need to be mindful as parents to use media as an active tool, not simply a distraction device. Kids need to be playing in the sand, watching the clouds from car windows, and allowed to be bored at times. Watching media dependency or behavior change after media use are often good signs for parents to observe if media is having positive or negative effects.”

We agree, Dr. Natasha! Play rules and boredom can inspire. Find an alternative to the screen when you can, but don’t feel bad about using a quality show or app to give you (and the kiddos) a breather when you need it. Sometimes getting things done makes way for more play.

Wishing you play,

Follow Dr. Burgert on Facebook and Twitter for the latest in children's health, tips on raising tech-savvy kids and the occasional holla back to Justin Timberlake.