Screen addiction: time to take things seriously

First: I’m so sorry for the long absence. My digital break for the holidays was definitely longer than advertised, and no one missed My Little, Green Family more than I did!

It’s been a very intense time for me, trying to juggle freelance work, looking-for-fulltime-work work, and finding a place to live and getting organized for our big move to Toronto. (We’re finally moving to Toronto in May, which is where I have always wanted to live. I’m super excited and yet sad because I will miss my Ottawa friends so much. But more on that later…).

Thank you to all of you who asked about the blog, wondering when it would be back. It’s back now! And hopefully I’ll manage to keep it going on a regular basis again.

Now, to today’s discussion: It’s time to take warnings about screen time seriously.

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I came across two compelling articles this week that I would like to share with you. The first is a blog post by Cris Rowan, a pediatric occupational therapist, who is calling for an all-out ban of handheld devices for children under the age of 12. Rowan cites mounds of research to support her campaign, some of which I find a bit of a stretch (like her use of the term “digital dementia”). Though I wouldn’t necessarily support her call for a ban of handheld devices, Rowan’s summary of reasons to limit screen time for babies and children is a very useful one if you have slipped into complacency and need a reminder to scale back on screen time for your little ones.

You can read the whole thing here:

10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should Be Banned for Children Under the Age of 12

The second article I read was published by Time magazine. It cites a study by the Boston Medical Centre which revealed that parents’ use of screen time affected their behaviour towards their children. What called my attention is that the study focused on the parents’ use of technology instead of the children’s, which is an obvious yet sometimes overlooked part of the equation when talking about screen time for children.

The Time article mentions modelling behaviour, which is, if you recall, one of the most important aspects of positive parenting: show your children how to behave by behaving the way you want them to. The piece is, is one word, sad. It shows that distracted parents who were entranced by their screens while having a meal with their kids responded curtly or rudely when the children tried to call their attention away from the devices. I know I’ve been there. I know you’ve been there. And I know it’s totally normal and I don’t want to be a complete freak about being a perfect parent, but reading this did make me want to pay much closer attention to my screen habits.

You can read the Time article here:

Don’t Text While Parenting — It Will Make You Cranky

My sister and her family came to visit us for a couple of days last week. One afternoon, I was surprised to find my 5-year-old nephew reading a book, quiet and focused for almost one hour. My brother-in-law said his son —a very active 5-year-old— has taken up the habit of reading in the afternoons. He credits his son’t nice reading habit to the fact that both him and my sister tend to do just that when they have some down time: grab a magazine or a book and read on the couch for a while.

Like us, my sister and her family don’t have cable and only watch TV on the computer screen occasionally, for short periods of time. Not having a TV means that it is not the default activity for when you’re bored. In their case, reading is their default activity. And that has evidently impacted their son’s habits. On the other hand, my nephew does love the grab his parents’ smartphones and they struggle to keep him away from the phones. And how can you insist that your children don’t play with your phone when that’s what they see you doing all the time?

It’s really up to us to regulate our own behaviour, and take the limiting of screen time more seriously.

What do you think? As always, I’d love to hear from you!

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2 thoughts on “Screen addiction: time to take things seriously

  1. Welcome back, I missed you here! I also came across the first article on various platforms but didn’t find it in me to read it yet. I am pretty sure I know what it says and that it will make me feel very anxious… We have tried very hard to keep P away from screens but it’s really hard when our works (which we do mostly from home) involve sitting in front of screens. I also have to admit that we have become very complacent with ourselves when it comes to making screens our default activity.This is why I gradually deleted all the social media from my phone and I have noticed that I reach for it a lot less. I have to say that deleting my Facebook account has helped tremendously (and I don’t miss it one bit!). I’d like to keep my phone for calls, texts, photos and listening to podcasts (I am debating getting rid of emails).
    Sadly at 22 months, P is very aware of what our phones and computers can do and we’ve come to a point where it’s difficult to even take a photo of her without her trying to grab the phone (and melting down when we refuse to give it).
    Your sister is very inspiring. I used to love reading, I still do but I’d lie if I said I read much these days. P loves her books, I feel very inspired to lead by example and pick up books more often….

  2. Thanks for your reply, Alex! I really do feel that we need to constantly check what we’re doing and question whether we need to adjust our behaviour.
    I completely understand what you mean about working and using screens all the time —it leaves you with no arguments to tell a toddler that they don’t have a right to look at a screen. My husband did something similar to what you did and it has really limited his smartphone use: he deleted all news apps —I did the same (for news junkies like us, that’s a tough one!); he doesn’t check email on his phone, only his laptop; and he also closed his Twitter and FB accounts. This means his phone is, as you say, for calls, texts, and instagram, which he tries to use only occasionally or only in the evening. He also went on a “digital diet,” which includes rules such as turning off your wifi while working on his computer (if you don’t depend on the Internet for work, it’s a good idea), and not checking email before noon.
    They’re all little adjustments that we can certainly try out and see what works for us. To me, what matters is that we don’t forget to question our habits.
    So I think you are on the right track!

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