I came across a school paper this week that set out a series of rules that should be completed each day ‘before you turn on the screen’. It included:
- made your bed
- had breakfast
- dressed, brushed your hair and brushed your teeth
- completed 20 minutes of reading AND 20 minutes of writing or colouring AND played outside for 30 minutes AND made or built something creative
- cleaned a room
- helped someone in your family in another way
My first thought was, “Jesus Christ!”, and my second was to quickly check if these rules are intended for the adults or just the kids. I would physically harm anyone who tried to make me follow these rules. Not really, but I would call them some rather disgusting names. In my head. I’m a coward really.
But it made me think… do I set rules for my kids that I don’t follow myself?
First of all, let’s tackle the screen time one. I spend the majority of my day looking at a screen, for work, for communication and for entertainment. I think there are few people left who don’t multi-screen – watching TV while intermittently checking messages and social media on our phones.
It’s rare that I won’t have looked at a screen before completing any of the first three things on the list. Often I look at my phone before I’ve even got out of bed!
We live in the digital age and, here’s the point, so do our children. Reading a story or watching a story – who gets to say which is better? I love books, theatre, film and TV, and blogs, let’s not forget blogs. They are all just telling stories. We recognise Shakespeare as the ultimate writer, but let’s remember that the majority of his celebrated work was written as plays – for people to WATCH. Could TV and film and even You-Tube arguably be considered as just ‘modern theatre’.
My boy has just shown me a Spiderman world he’s created in MineCraft, with pants-wetting excitement and pride because he’s worked out how to build something he’s not done before.
- Is he being creative? – tick
- Using logic, intellect and tenacity? – tick
- Writing and colouring? – (in computer code) tick
- Social skills – tick. He has friends who share his passionate hobby and they discuss ideas and teach each other new skills.
So why do screens get such a bad rep? “Because of risks to eyesight, posture, lack of exercise” my argumentative brain cries. OK, all fair points. We have to watch those, for kids AND adults in the digital age. But my brain’s back with a counter-argument: is that different to when we had to learn from all the back and lung problems people had in the industrial age when manual labour, like working in a mill or a mine, was the norm?
So I do watch what my boy does, and try to make sure there’s a balance of activities and responsibilities. The same as I try to make sure he gets enough exercise, sleep and healthy food. I admit I’m absolutely guilty of being more bothered about those rules for him than I ever apply to myself, which makes me a total hypocrite. He eats better, sleeps longer and gets more exercise than I ever do.
I think I might just cut him some slack on the screen time.