Heather Novak


A letters game I didn’t even realize they could play.
I underestimated their intelligence.

Are you making your child fall behind in her physical and intellectual development? We parents worry over every inch of our sweet newborn baby’s development, our toddler’s developing motor skills, and our preschooler’s language skills. We try and fail and try again to be our best version of a parent. If there is one thing you could do to improve your child’s chances, you would jump at it, right? Many parents do this one thing that keeps their child from learning as fast as their peers, picking up social cues and communication skills. I’ve done it a few times, but I have seen other parents do it so much I have to warn the rest of you against it.

Facebook. Smart phones. Iphones. Android. Ipad. HD Television. Nook. Games. These things erode your child’s intelligence (not to mention your own). These days there are so many engrossing distractions from real life and laundry it is a wonder anyone can hold a face-to-face conversation for more than a moment. Remember talking? Remember parenting?

Boredom breeds creativity!

I am preaching to myself, Lovelies, let me reassure you. I am preaching to myself.

Last week my daughter Portia came home from school to joyfully tell me she had completed her weekly book page for school all about me. I asked her what she said. She said she wrote that my favorite thing was The Computer. She said I had too much “Screen Time”.

Ouch. Whoa. OhmyLorditistrueIhavefailed. *AHEM*

I often spend an hour in the morning online. Most mornings. Not every, but most. I write, I read blogs, I check two e-mails and two Facebooks … that alone takes thirty minutes. My girls are three and five years old and have been raised to be independent. I tell them, “Boredom breeds creativity and builds character!” They play well together and can usually get themselves dressed without much of my help. Thus my morning screen time. I also have a smart phone and use it a lot to communicate, look things up, and so forth. While I limit their screen time to about an hour and not every day of the week, I myself lose time online quite often. The line between productive online work and distracted rabbit trail of fun is quite blurry.

I want to live my life. I want to enjoy real people in front of me. I want to take care of my house and our children so well that when my husband comes home from work he can just enjoy our life together instead of feeling like he has to pitch in. Unfortunately many days I let work slide and gravitate to the comfy computer chair instead. (Pinterest will ALWAYS be more interesting than folding laundry or doing the dishes over and over, amiright?)

Using and enjoying technology is wonderful! Using it too much, however, robs my little girls of all the lessons available to them about life and relationships and Things from just doing life together. When I am online too much we are not baking together. We are not finding a craft to do. There is a chance I could lose one of my children under that growing laundry pile. I lose time, and smiles and I get crabby. I may shout that “I am working!” in order to get them out of the office area. I may not get any writing done because my daughters keep coming to me for attention. I know how to redirect, but many times a kid should GET the attention they pester for. It is why I am home with them.

I may also hand them a screen of their own. NPR had a recent story about how some forms of screen time can maybe help child development. I offer the NOOK as a treat, several times a week. We only have one and there are only a few options on it for them, but they get excited about it. The same with the television. We do not have cable. We watch things through ROKU and stream Netflix. They love watching anything on TV and because it is rare they are entranced and zombie like in their worship. If I need an hour of quiet to write or make dinner alone, I know I can always turn on a screen for my kids.

But I don’t.

Sometimes I give up on my own screen time. I pull up the kitchen stool and let them slop raw egg or breadcrumbs everywhere (AKA “stirring”). Maybe I pull out toys they forgot they had from the basement. I’ll often get out the markers and scissors and let them go to town. I give them chores around the house.

It would be easier to turn a screen on for them, but sometimes I just don’t. I want them to learn about their world hands on. I want them to entertain themselves … even if I get interrupted. A lot. From the Huffington Post article “Kids and TV: Watching An Extra Hour Can Harm Kindergarten Performance” I know that letting them watch too much TV or other screen time stunts their brain development, creates addictive feelings for more stimulation and hurts our relationships. Have you ever tried to get a little kid’s attention when they are staring raptly at a screen?

I know that for my children to grow up well, screen time needs to be a treat, not an on-all-day way to spend a life. The pediatric community has specific guidelines on media use. I ache when I see parents who just leave the idiot box running all day. They are shortchanging their children’s ability to relate to and grow up in a much more exciting and entertaining world. I know that doing real life is much better for my children than passively watching fake life on a screen. Now I simply need to remind myself. I do not want to be a dummy. I want to live well.

What are your beliefs, strengths, weakness and truths about screen time in your lives? Share in the comments below.


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Category: Kids

Tags: child development