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slides: Mum’s the Word: Children and Electronics

Friday, August 28, 2015


Screen time can refer to time used watching TV, playing the computer or video games, or using a smart phone. 

Relatedly, I have often heard people critiquing parents on the amount of screen time a child is given.  

When I was growing up the main critique was related to watching TV, and I remember being told even by other children that I “watched too much television” simply because I referred to watching movies sometimes. 

Despite my love of movies, I was also often seen sitting in a corner with my nose stuck between the pages of an Agatha Christie book or the Anne of Green Gables series. In fact, I read probably more often then I watched TV or played video games. 

Additionally, as far as I know, my critics were not watching me through my family’s window at night, breathing heavily, as I placed one VHS into the player after another. However, because they heard me mention the “evil box” a couple times, they made an assumption and ran with it. People critiqued my family simply because they could. 

Similarly today, a person will see you hand your phone to your four-year-old one time and respond with a sad shake of their head. 

Obviously, your child will eventually end up becoming a garbage-eating mute, living in a cardboard box on Guerrero Street, with an Iphone 20 as their one possession. 

However, the people critiquing you never seem to take into account any external circumstances. 

They’ll see you hand over your phone to your child, but they won’t really think about the fact that you’re in the DMV or at the airport with a long wait time or trip ahead. 

Of course, I’m not denying that there are parents who use electronics as their primary babysitters. I’m also not denying that there are some negative side effects that come with an overuse of entertainment-related screen time.

However, more than likely, the average parent does not use electronics as a fulltime babysitter.

I would also go so far as to argue that the average parent lets their child use electronics on a monitored, but fairly frequent basis, simply because that’s the time period that we are living in. 

Remember, at a certain time in history, even novels were looked down upon as being lowbrow entertainment

Our forms of entertainment change, but the human tendency to judge one another never does. 

Consequently, the average parent might feel conflicted each time they let their child watch TV or play with a smartphone. 

More than likely, you are the best judge of whether or not you overuse electronics with your children. Still, if you really are trying to either cut back on your kid’s screen time or monitor it better, then here are four things to consider. 

See Slideshow Below.


Related Slideshow: Mum’s the Word: Children and Electronics

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1. Be Present

One of the valid problems with letting children watch television or movies is that they might pick up negative concepts about either themselves or other people. Just the other day, my daughter, Lia, was watching Sprout. I was in the kitchen making eggs, the only thing I know how to make, and she ran into the kitchen looking distressed.

“Do I have hair on my arms?” She asked.

“Yes, most people do.” 

She whimpered, and her eyes widened, “Then how will I get rid of it without a No! No!

I was confused, and then I looked toward the TV and saw a commercial for a a device that helps you get rid of unwanted body hair, a “No! No!”  

The situation is funny this time, but the lesson is clear that much of the media on TV can put silly and self-destructive ideas into children’s heads.

However, these ideas may not take root if children are given the right guidance from a parent. Be aware of what your kids are watching so that you can speak to any of the “sticky” ideas that might arise. Don’t just sit your child in front of a TV without being aware of what will come on that screen. 

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2. Luxury not a Right

Many forms of entertainment today are often viewed as a necessity. This is a problem for both adults and children. How many of you have seen memes comparing Tom Hanks stranded on an island to how it feels when we lose a good Wi-Fi connection? 

Wi-Fi and cable are nice things to have but guess what, humans lived for centuries without having any of those things and we turned out…okay. So make sure you instill in your children the fact that it’s a privilege to have a cellphone, TV, or computer and not necessity. 

Knowing it’s a luxury might help cut back on children having tantrums or acting out because they can’t watch a movie before finishing chores or simply because Mom said “no.” 

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3. Discover New Mediums 

If you afraid that your children might be getting “addicted” to using electronics or movies as forms of entertainment, then you might want to introduce them to other mediums. If your child doesn’t like to read, then maybe they will like listening to an audiobook while playing with Legos.

Or, instead of watching a movie on a Friday night, surprise them by taking them to see a play. There are many theaters that do adaptations of Ramona Quimby books, Peanuts, and even Star Wars that you and your kids might enjoy. 

Photo Credit: Beverly Cleary's Website (Image Cropped)

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4. Educate

Remind your children that electronics can be used for educational purposes and not just entertainment.  If you have a little one who likes cartoons, pick up a copy of Schoolhouse Rock! for them to watch instead of a Bratz movie.  

In reality, electronics are only as “dumb” or “smart” as their users. 

Choose to use them in smart way. 

Photo Credit: Schoolhouse Rock IMDB (Image Cropped)


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