How Our Family Does Screen Time For Kids

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two kids sitting back to back on screens. screen time. Des Moines MomI am one mom in a vast sea of moms and dads whom holds an opinion on the screen plus child combination. Social media platforms, games, art, information, music, shopping, tutorials, streaming services, recipes, etcetera forever and ever amen. On the subject of kids and the internet, there’s much to navigate.

Kids and Screen Time

Take my opinion for what it is, an opinion. It is not some sweeping be-all-end-all type of philosophy. To each their own!

That said…

It’s been hard to find my place amongst parents who won’t let their kids near a screen vs. those who don’t monitor their children’s screens at all. My pendulum swings somewhere in the middle of these popular yet polar opposing views. 

How It Started

My kids didn’t have devices until January of 2021. Because of the pandemic, one thing led to another. My partner and I decided to unschool our children. Enter our first iPad ever! Then came our children’s discovery of Roblox, a social media platform where kids can interact with other children through game play. 

As the kids continued to use the iPad for illustrations via the procreate app and to make movies using editing tools and cap cut, they also began to get curious about Tik Tok and Instagram. This is where I began to question what boundaries we needed to set in place regarding social media usage. 

I’m a wait and see type of individual. I tend to absorb information like a sponge – both evidence based and opinion biased. So imagine all that was going on in my head. Too much was going on! Floating around my brain was the black and white verbiage spoken from parental soap boxes. Then there was the science that proves technology is both beneficial but also not beneficial to human development.

For instance playing games like Minecraft and Roblox triggers the math side of our brain, but also, too much social media use is linked to suicide and depression. Lastly, throw in my own social media addiction. I mean! Where’s a mom with a brain like mine to land? EVERYTHING seems important. 

So instead of making blanket statements to myself or to my kids, I asked my children how they wanted to use social media followed by why. The resounding answer? To create. What a pure answer! Unsullied by bullies, predators, capitalism, and patriarchy. If they want to create and showcase their hard work, I’m here for it! The stipulation? As long as I am involved. 

How Screens Benefit My Kids

I mentioned before that my partner and I unschool our children. Unschooling is child-led learning. This means we allow our kids to learn as much as they want about what interests them. As they delve into what they like they simultaneously learn reading, math, history, etc. along the way. 

Screens have been invaluable for my children and their education. Not only do we use educational apps, but the kids also use Roblox, Tik Tok, Pinterest, and a little bit of Instagram within the realm of “schooling”. 

For example, my middle child loves to build. Whether that be with legos, manipulatives, or on Roblox. I remember as a child pretending to be an architect. I would map out mansions on graph paper. For hours I would arrange rooms, hallways, and patios using pencil and ruler on paper. My child does the same thing, except with much better visuals and math concepts to work with. She’s learning and having fun at the same time! 

Both my eight year old and seven year old love to role play with each other as well as other kids. While they still play pretend with their LOL dolls, Roblox is another way they use their imagination. They get to be different characters and come up with various scenarios for said characters. It’s a joy to listen to them play. 

My oldest child is an illustrator. They have been since the young age of two. Drawing is in their blood! Of course editing apps aren’t apps we collective parents have to worry about, but instead it’s Tik Tok and Instagram where we pay attention. My child likes to post their work on these platforms. First and foremost as a portfolio to look back upon, but also for feedback and connection. My oldest can hyperfixate on something they love. Right now they love rats and anime. So they will draw illustrations or make videos of both, then post to their account. 

My children find inspiration on Pinterest. They save what they love, whether it be a style, a recipe, art, or animals. I love their boards! Their saves give me ideas on how to spend one on one time with them, topics to discuss, what gifts they might like, or for projects they want to make. 

Our Boundaries

Recently, my oldest experienced unnecessary stress through some personal text message conversations. Luckily I had seen every message sent between my child and another. Not only did this take a toll on my child’s mental health, but it also took a toll on me. We both navigated the experience together. Had I not known what my eleven year old was discussing with another kid, I wouldn’t have known how to help my child de-escalate and work through their emotions. Our experience brought more trust to our relationship, and more importantly, my child was able to experience trusting their own intuition. My oldest was able to set a boundary on their own. 

As parents, we need to work alongside our kids through the social media highs and lows. Who else will if we don’t? Kicking our kids off screens or turning a blind eye to what’s happening on the screen aren’t whole, healthy answers. In my opinion, they are escapes.

Communication is key! I don’t believe that kids are meant to handle the internet alone. While they are developing a sense of who they are, our children also need guidance and protection. So what is privacy? My opinion is that if kids want to be on screens, parents should check in on their kids messages, likes, and saves. This is how we keep our children safe while also giving them autonomy. This also means being open to what our kids like then validating their interests rather than judging them. 

Unlimited vs Limited Screen Time

At our house, we’ve dabbled in unlimited screen time and limited screen time. Again, I think I fall somewhere in between. I set limits on different apps, like Roblox or Tik Tok, but I allow unlimited time for drawing and film making.

My kids can watch all the documentaries they want, but three minute Tik Tok clips make me worry their attention spans won’t develop the way I hope it can. So we limit!

A positive for Tik Tok? Tik Tok has started many in depth conversations and been a channel for curiosity. We tend to google many subjects and questions when the kids and I go down a Tik Tok rabbit hole. 

My younger children have private social media accounts while my oldest has a public account. I make these sorts of decisions based on a myriad of truths. Age, personality, the way they use their time on screens, and the social media content they create. I often remind myself that as a parent we can change the ebb and flow of our screen time usage.

So while my opinion tends to reside in the gray (as many of my opinions do), this is what works for our family operates. I’m sure the shape of screen-related parenting will change over the course of our children growing up, and I’m ok with that. 

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Hello! My name is Abbey Kennedy. I am a sober enneagram four, unschooling femme raising three kids and a dog. I’m also a wife to a software engineer by day, musician by night. I love spending time with my family, my friends, and myself. Walks in nature, works of art, eclectic environments give me life! I also love a good oat milk latte, podcasts for days, writing, self-reflection, dancing, and laughing. Humor steals the show! You can find me on Instagram as @velvet_gazelle.

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