We are surrounded by tech. People are obsessed with their devices, from iPhones to tablets to Bluetooth this and that, we cannot escape this thing called technology. On the subway, on the street, in the car, on the bus, at work, at home, on the plane, in airports, in bathrooms, in Starbucks and grocery lines, on football fields, and in stadiums and at concerts, people are glued to their screens. It’s almost like a zombie effect has taken over our society and all you can see are the masses, hunched over, eyes glazed, emotionless, staring into the ether that is their screen.
Long gone is when you find yourself in an elevator striking up a random conversation. Or making eye contact with the person behind you in the grocery line. Or exchanging pleasantries with your neighbor. In our attempts to be more connected, available and up-to-date, we have lost touch with people, places and happenings right in front of us and of our physical realities….
You’ve heard me rant and rave about this before. But here’s why I have a bee in my bonnet. Reading the newspaper a few Sundays ago, I came across this article about how “Silicon Valley Nannies are Phone Police for their Kids”. You’d have to live under a rock to know the damage that excessive screen time can have on a child’s development. Recently, there’s been talk that the very people who create, sell and market the use of technology in Silicon Valley expressly prohibit their own children from viewing any type of screen whatsoever. Now that’s unsettling. But these Silicon Valley types and those with means are taking it one step further and hiring nannies to expressly police and protect their children from screens altogether.
The articles goes on to talk about the hypocrisy of these parents who limit or deny screen time while simultaneously being glued to the so-called criminal devices themselves. They are addicted and need to hire outside help to prevent that very addiction within their offspring. Now, I get it. If you’re ever out to dinner and look around, you might see that family where everybody is on their respective device, barely engaging in a conversation. Or you may see a group of teenagers messaging their friends, who all happen to be sitting right next to them at their very table.
But have we taken this all a little too far to now be hiring nannies specifically for the purpose of playing tech police?
And taking this one step further, is this just another way that the privileged will leave those who are underprivileged behind? Yet another learning gap that will have to be surmounted in order to be successful in the future?
It all seems a little preposterous to me. But, these are the times we are living in. Here’s what we do in our household to battle what ails us of tech:
Limit screen time to 20-25 minutes/ day. They are allowed to watch 1 show on PBS Kids and generally no commercials. There are a few caveats to this rule. Because of where we live, during the warmer months, if the kids play outside with their friends after school or summer camp, no screen time that day (mostly because there’s no time). The kids happily forgo their screen time to play outside and thankfully, this has never been a problem. If we are running late in our evening routine, no screen time. We usually make this up with reading extra books before bed. If we have any activity that runs later into the evening (an event at school, piano lessons, etc), no screen time. Of course, we also make exceptions the other way when there is a major sports event going on (Go Sox! Go Djokovic!) or if there is a special I want the kids to watch. Ironically enough, my parents had limited my “TV-time” to 30 minutes a day back in the 80s when I was growing up so I feel OK with using this as the allotted time period. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 1 hour of screen time per day for kids ages 2-5 years and kids ages 6 and above to placing “consistent limits on the time spent using media”.
Prefer the TV to a tablet or phone. We have found that there is something more addictive to a personal device versus something being displayed on the television. Plus it’s easier to turn the TV off instead of wrangling a device from the kids hand.
If poor behavior, no screen time. Screen time is something to be earned and is a privilege. We are trying to dispel the notion that screen time is ubiquitous with being a kid or with life in general.
Do as I do. My husband and I are hyper aware of our phone usage around our children. When I pick up my phone around my kids, I usually announce what I am doing- “I’m looking up the weather” or “I need to check a work email” so the kids know that I have a purpose for looking at my screen. This has taken lots of getting used to but now, when we enter our home, we really make a concerted effort to be off of our phones. It’s certainly not easy and I can vouch that the addiction is real.
What rules have you adopted in your house to curb tech addiction? What have you found to work and not work? Do you have a nanny that serves as a tech police? Please share!