Limit screen time.
I’m sure you’ve all heard the key phrases. The words encouraging you to put down your phone and focus on the here and now. The words are meant to inspire parents to log off of social media, to quit documenting every single moment, and to truly be present with our families.
Now I don’t know about your family, but with an 8- and 7-year-old, unplugging and limiting screen time are earth-shattering ideas that are received about as well as “we’re having liver and onions for dinner.” I totally get it. I live for mindlessly scrolling through TikTok, catching up on the latest gossip on Facebook, and double-tapping all the hilarious memes on Instagram. These platforms bring me joy (and all the other emotions on any given day) so why should I treat my children’s online interests like they’re a detriment to their wellbeing?
A New Kind of Game Night
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good family game night just as much as the next person. I pride myself on being the undefeated “Sorry” champion of the household and my husband currently holds the title of “Pretty Pretty Princess” after several failed attempts from our middle child to steal his crown, but as with all things, game nights have advanced beyond your traditional board and card games.
This winter has proved difficult already in terms of activities. Our mall visits to the play area, our outings to the trampoline parks, bounce houses, and any other heavily trafficked play places are not an option (*insert several fake tears for the mourning of Chuck E. Cheese trips*).
With that being said, we’ve had to get creative and we’ve shifted our extracurriculars from public venues to in-house, and ultimately…. Online.
Online Family Gaming
We’ve spent countless hours strategizing in “Among Us”, bringing out our competitive side in “Mario Kart”, mapping out the ultimate quest in “Zelda”, and learning how short of a fuse some people have (i.e. ME) while playing “Donkey Kong.” The amount of laughter, conversation, and time spent as a family during these online games has been amazing.
It’s given us the opportunity to bond over interests our children have been passionate about for some time, but we’ve never taken the time to stop and say, “yes, let’s play this together!”
Screentime and children is typically portrayed in a negative light. I used to beat myself up over trying to maintain the perfect balance. But why? Was I unplugging and setting limits because it was what was best for my family or because social constructs and online “experts” told me that’s what I should be doing?
Spending more time at home forced me to let go of unrealistic ideals and focus on what it is that makes my family happiest. I had to find common interests that bring us closer together during a time that has been incredibly isolating.
For us, we’ve found it works for our family to PLUG-IN, and spend our evenings laughing and competing together, versus mindlessly scrolling and playing as individuals.
Screentime still has limits, but also incredible benefits.