Limiting Screen Time for Kids in a Digital World

One parent’s struggle to maintain a technological balance in her household.

  • Our online life is infinitely tailored to us. Our electronic devices quickly learn to navigate to our favorite websites and post ads for products we like. Social media gives us our own chosen circle and feeds us the political jargon with which we resonate. No matter how isolated our viewpoint, the web will help us locate others who share the same view.
    Photo by Flickr/Paul Inkles

I was raised a television-starved kid, a deprivation arranged by my parents.

When television was everywhere in the ’60s and ’70s, my parents made the conscious decision not to buy one. Like so many stands against culture, that decision was subverted by the grandparents a few years later by the gift of a huge colour console.

I think those strong TV limits gave me a richer childhood and a more fulfilling adult life. Thanks to my parents, I grew up in an outdoor world and a tribe of relationships. Mine was a childhood of climbing, inventing, making, building. My four siblings and I now use television and other screens very intentionally.

So as I raise my kids in a digital, webbed world, I am borrowing a page from that book. I work very hard to give my urban-raised kids time to grow up offline. I want them in love with the tactile, breathing world. I want them to have an imagination capable of trumping the “I’m bored, flick a button” response many kids exhibit. I am battling the peer who walks into our house to hang out, and seeing no screen in sight, has no idea what to do.

The apocryphal story in my family is a nephew, at age four, asking a neighbor kid over. “I’m not coming out. I’m watching TV,” his friend responded.

“Be careful,” warned my nephew. “Too much TV makes you forget how to play.”

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