My Kid Looks at Screens Sometimes & I Don’t Feel Bad About It: Tips for Creating Healthy Screen Time Habits

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I logged into Facebook today during nap time to get some posts up on my Oak + Oats FB page and answer some comments/messages. I ten out of ten prefer spending my social media time on Instagram, but I keep up with Facebook because I have a lot of people who like to connect with me that way—especially out of town family. All that to say, I scrolled through my feed and within the five minutes saw multiple posts from moms about feeling bad that they let their kids have screen time. One parent had to get some work done when a babysitter canceled so their kid watched Daniel Tiger for an hour and the other had 4 sick kids and was sick, as well, so they all just lounged around watching Disney+ and she felt BAD about it!

First off, I know using the excuse “I watched tv and I turned out just fine” is kind of lame. But… I WATCHED TV AND I TURNED OUT JUST FINE. 😉 Haha. Especially when I was sick. Like am I the only one who laid on the couch next to a bucket, excited that at 10 am Price is Right would be on?!

Screens are part of our world.

Just like I want to teach my daughter healthy eating habits that emphasize portion control and the mantra “eat when you are hungry & stop when you are full,” we need to learn moderation for so many things in life. It is not practical that my kid will never use a screen or watch a screen. Some of my favorite activities are going to the movies and watching a good show with my husband. That doesn’t mean we don’t also like going on walks, hiking, camping, exploring, visiting museums, etc.

But we do love our screen time, too. I mean, whenever I get free time you can find me here on my laptop typing away, editing photos, or replying to emails and I like it! So if I like screens and use screens, it would be hypocritical of me to tell my daughter she cannot. NOW HEAR ME, that doesn’t mean I am not going to be a parent who can & does control what she watches and limits her use, but she does get screen time and I don’t feel bad about it.

Tips For Creating Healthy Screen Time Habits

Limit Screen time.

Reserve shows for certain times of the day. In our home that looks like in the morning while we are all waking up and after nap. Breakfast time helps this mama eat breakfast, have a quiet time, and drink my coffee. We turn it off to get ready for the day and head out the door for a play date, a walk, a library run, or some morning activity. After nap is a fun time for a show when she is waking up. Sometimes, it is just Disney music videos so we sing along, as well. Having set times for shows helps your kids know when to expect it and when not to so they are not asking all day to watch a show.

Pick age appropriate shows.

When I log into Disney+ even on the kids page, there are a lot of shows that are too old for my 3-year-old. I let her pick the show she wants but I don’t just let her pick any show she sees, I’ve discovered a couple shows that we use as our base for screen time. Bluey (Disney+) is a family favorite for this age as well as Mickey’s Playhouse (Disney+) Cocomelon (Amazon), Daniel Tiger (PBS Kids), Tumble Leaf (Amazon), and Blippy (Hulu).

Don’t over emphasize it/ be aware of how you talk about it.

Watching a show is a way we have fun, but so is going on a walk. Help them keep things in perspective. Don’t talk about how you are a terrible mother for letting them watch a show—they enjoy it and may be confused why you feel so bad about it. When watching a show after nap and then playing in the backyard until dinner is no big deal to you, they will learn they can do a little bit of one thing and a little bit of another—moderation.

I think of this with food a lot, too. When you put such a big emphasis on how desserts are bad for you and you say things about being ashamed about eating a cookie, those all get passed along and create an unhealthy view of food. They either feel so guilty about enjoying a sweet or binge on them because they never learned how to enjoy them in moderation. I find this to be a similar concept.

Watch your intake.

Are you always on your phone? This shows them that screens are valuable and worth looking at. Practice disconnecting from your phone. Whether that means putting it on top of the bookshelf when you are playing in the nursery or leaving it in your purse when you are out to dinner with a friend. This is not only healthy for your well-being and your relationships but your kids will see what you do and model it.

Show them the benefits of technology.

I take a lot of photos and videos on both my camera and my phone. I like to invite my kids into a selfie to send to Grandma or a facetime phone call to Auntie. They are growing up in a techy world so show them how it can be good!

Be aware of negatives of technology.

As your kids grow, keep an honest conversation going around what we watch and what we do online with our phones and computers. Create age-appropriate boundaries for time usage and media consumption. Help them learn to set boundaries for themselves as they grow up and leave your home.

These are just some general tips. There is so much to be said on the topic but as one mom to another, we have to stop with the guilt. I know my daughter needs more than tv and screens in her life but sometimes a good show is just what we all need. And in this world where technology is all around us, I want to teach her how to use it, not just avoid it altogether. 

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