In mommy-speak the words “screen time” are code for “you’re really screwing up this parenting gig if your little human watches TV or stares into the black mirror of the family iPad for more than a nanosecond.”
I’ve also learned if who you are speaking to refers to “TV or video games” as “TV or video games,” don’t then call it screen time, because that means you’re about to be marked as an uptight hover mom.
This is high stakes stuff in the mommy-verse. In all aspects of modern society, really. Continually advancing technology, in all its forms, is presenting the biggest challenge in today’s parenting.
Every time humans have gone about charting new ground it’s been problematic, mind you. Think “colonization.”
While this should be less bloody—knock on wood—my human was born into a world completely different than the one I was, let alone every previous generation.
My mother’s dogeared copy of Dr. Spock certainly never addressed how to balance a world bent on advancing technological integration into all facets of daily life against my social and intellectual development. All she had to worry about was making sure I didn’t bonk my head as I learned to walk; chewed my food before I swallowed; brushed my teeth; didn’t run into traffic; didn’t pick my nose in public. The end, more or less.
Meanwhile, I’ve thought myself into circles about this topic and I’ve learned I’m not alone. A study out of England says that approximately 25 per cent of parents consider balancing technological advancements with their parenting aims is their number one concern.
That there are no clear answers is likely what’s prompted the confusion. Some sociologists say more screen time will produce more sociopaths, some people point out that it makes no sense to deny technology to a child when that is the reality of the world they’ll eventually enter as adults. And then are concerns about how being attached to a computer and/or phone screen is actually changing human posture. There’s much more to worry about, of course.
I got a whopping 141 million articles when I did a news search with “screen time” and “parenting” as the parameters.
The tech/parenting story I have found most alarming, however, is out of England.
“Why are British kids so unhappy? Two words: screen time” came out of the Guardian.
I didn’t even know British kids were unhappy. British adults tend to be a bit dour—in my family at least—so I think it’s a bit rich to put it all on the glowing devices we’ve come to cherish.
Nonetheless, the story refers to NSPCC chief executive, Peter Wanless, warning of a nation of deeply unhappy children due to “the pressure to keep up with friends and have the perfect life online…adding to the sadness that many young people feel on a daily basis.”
Figures released by counselling service ChildLine reveal low self-esteem to be among the most prevalent problems reported by today’s youth.
It’s one thing for me to judge myself against the reel of flattering selfies on social media sites, but the idea that my perfect pickle will one day believe he doesn’t stack up to some filtered version of reality causes me great consternation.
Have we traded convenience for emotional well being? Is connectivity worth what we’re giving up?
Time will tell. And, I will do my best to make things clear to my little human. The delight he gets from flipping through the pages of a book will be something I try to protect.
The fun of fantasizing of other worlds and adventures, I hope, will remain a greater draw than the flickering light emanating from a video game or social media site.
When I’m ousted in the years to come, and his peer group gets in there, is where the problem will likely arise.
Screen time, I hope, will evolve into something that raises us up not pushes us down.
Time will tell. Maybe someone will make an app for that. If not I’ll be hovering close by with a book in hand.