Smartphones, and tablets, and laptops! Oh my! The world has become digitalized. Try to think of 5 people would don’t own some form of a screen, whether that’s a television, laptop, tablet, etc. Hard, isn’t it? Our technology integrated world is a new development, which means we still don’t know all of the positive or negative effects of screen time on children.
Research into the negative effects of screen time in general has just begun, it’ll probably be years before we truly know all of the possible outcomes. Sanya Slavin–a mother of two–recently wrote an article published by the Washington Post concerning whether the negative effects of screen time itself are less harmful than the anxiety between the parents and children over it.
Technology is different
As a parent, you’re probably familiar with anxiety. You tell your child not to do something and suddenly it holds this “forbidden fruit” aspect that’s extremely attractive to any child. “Don’t climb that tree, please!” Oh look, they’re climbing the tree. Screen time is a little different, though. Screens are in nearly all parts of our lives now. Work, school, at home–it’s hard to think of a place without one. So why are parents so concerned with the negative effects of screen time when we know very little about them? It’s exactly for that reason: no one knows the effects.
Could negative effects of screen time be less harmful than the anxiety?
In the article, Sanya Slavin emphasizes the “screen time anxiety” that comes with trying to limit your child’s exposure to the unknown negative effects of screen time. To clear things up, this isn’t saying you should allow your child to watch television or play on their phone at all times of the day–it’s a much more complicated issue and requires a more complicated answer.
Technology has transformed how humans communicate, that’s where the roots of this issue lay. Children are growing up with screens, learning that communicating through a screen is much easier than talking in person. Issues are arising, like Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), but issues arise with every radically new thing that enters society. Parents can’t control the negative effects of screen time. They have two options: adapt and grow with the times or fight against it hopelessly.
Sanya Slavin is trying to make a point. She’s saying there’s a way to not fight; there’s a way to make your child’s experience with screens beneficial and positive for both of you. This anxiety that develops when you try to limit screen time to not a minute past 2 hours can get obsessive and adverse to the relationship with your child. Like Slavin points out, fighting your child constantly over screen time will more than likely create a rift rather than help your child succeed.
In place of fighting screen time, Slavin has a crazy idea.
Let it go.
Let the negative effects of screen time anxiety go and turn it into an opportunity to bond with your daughter instead. Now this isn’t saying get rid of screen time constraints completely, but make them flexible. Slavin, for example, has a no screens during or after dinner time. Also, show interest. Ask your child why they like Instagram so much or how Snapchat works. This removes the “forbidden fruit” feature of screens and gives you the ability to form a new bond with your child. It might fix all your problems with screens or it might not, there’s no way of knowing because every child is different. As a parent, the only thing you can do is try it out.