Does your child own their own iPad? Five years ago, my husband and I made one of the biggest mistakes of our parenthood career. We introduced our son to the iPad.
Sure, at first it was cute. “Oh look, grandma and grandpa, my son knows how to Skype you,” and “Oh isn’t he a genius that he can already type a text?” What we weren’t prepared for was that we were feeding the endless need to plug in, to always be connected, and to be constantly ignored due to the dimly lit, LED light emerging from an electronic device. I should mention, not only did we introduce him to the iPad at the age of 5, we also bought him his first iPad.
As the years progressed, my son became addicted to screen time.
It started well before the iPad. It began when he was a baby with signing time videos (which by the way are an amazing way for your children to learn sign language at an early age); it progressed into nonstop kids YouTube videos on how to make slime, oobleck, Lego towers and cardboard pinball machines.
We convinced ourselves that we were enhancing his creativity and allowing him to earn screen time for good behavior. What we weren’t prepared for was losing our son.
We like to believe that we acted quickly and as soon as we noticed that our now 10-year-old was paying us zero attention, we took the iPad away, he was able to readjust and we lived happily ever after. Unfortunately, there isn’t a fairytale ending just yet.
Since we are still living through the process to end obsessive screen time, I offer you ways in which to make it less painful.
Preparation is key. Children do not like to hear the word, “No.” In taking away screen time, this is no different, in fact, it can be quite worse. Many times, I find myself saying no to a new toy or piece of candy, and offering him his iPad to self-soothe; yet, much like taking away a pacifier for the first time, expect pushback, whining and arguments.
Be prepared with a backup plan. Our plan is to play games as a family. Many nights, we find ourselves in a Tenzi battle or Clue mystery. These nights have become some of our most memorable. Once the initial shock wore off, playing games became fun and we were able to teach our son about healthy competition.
Take it Outside
It’s beautiful outside! This time of year is just lovely, minus the yellow pollen coating. Allow your children to play outside. This seems so simple, but in our tech-savvy society, playing outside has become obsolete.
We kept thinking that we were allowing our son to explore his creativity, but nothing sparks creativity more, then being outside. We discovered my son’s love of tennis and football. Not only is he able to get exercise and release energy, for the first time he feels good about something other than building Legos. His confidence has skyrocketed and he’s even making new friends playing football after school.
If Screen Time is a Must, Do it Together
Have you seen the movie Wonder yet? The movie is captivating. If screen time is a must, do it together! Watch a movie, watch silly YouTube videos, or play Monopoly on PS4 together. By being together, you are not only able to set a boundary of how much time is spent watching, you are also able to be in the know.
It’s so important for us, as parents, to know what is capturing our child’s attention. If endless hours on YouTube or social media has them intrigued, ensure that you are aware of what they are watching or with whom they are chatting. Protect them and install parental protection software.
And They Lived Happily Ever After? Not Quite Yet.
For the past year, my husband and I have been dwindling down from screen time. He still begs us every night for iPad time and yes, some nights we’re exhausted and give in. And some nights we just want to talk to each other while eating out, so yes, you may see him glued to the iPad at dinner. We’re not perfect, but we are certainly trying to recapture our son’s attention. After all, as his parents, we’ve earned it!