Monday, February 22, 2016

Screentime Playdates?

Fun at their Fingertips?
Do you set screen time limits for your kids? There's a lot of evidence out there that argues kids are spending too much time on screen-based activities like computers, iPads, tablets, phones, and video games and television watching. There's also evidence out there that parents spend too much time on these activities as well. But there's also conflicting evidence that says screen time isn't inherently bad and that it's possible to have quality screen time.

Don't google this question. You won't know the right answer. I don't think anyone does.

Look, I'm no screen time saint myself. I can't get a lot of work done without quality screen time in front of my laptop. But I sure do waste a lot of time binge watching shows while I'm doing random chores at home. Then again, I worked out for 90 minutes while watching a show the other day and I really appreciated that device.

Sure, sometimes I realize I've left my kids alone with a device too long and I have to perform an emergency iPadectomy. But generally we have a good balance of screen and non-screen time. 

Now I'm facing a new challenge: friends bringing iPads over during play dates. My kids do not own their tablets, but lots of my friends' kids own tablets. And when these kids arrive for play dates instead of running outside or playing a board game or imaginative play they are sitting on couches playing on screens.

I asked my husband what he thought about this, and he said he didn't mind that much because for many screen games, it was still cooperative play. And yes, when they play together on screen, the normal things still happen: fights, laughter, cooperation, creativity, hurt feelings, and shared experiences.

I grew up playing video games with my friends. But not only video games.

All of these things make it seem "not that bad."

So why I am still worried that this is wrong? They are still sitting there just tapping buttons. I worry they should be doing things they can ONLY do with friends, like reenacting favorite movies (that they watched on screens). Or playing board games (some of which are available on devices). Or do art projects! (there are some cool drawing apps on the iPad). They should play with each other. They can do screens when they are alone!

The really tough part is when I feel that my kids and visiting kids have been on their devices long enough and I ask them to do something else. Quite often, all of the kids get very frustrated. Some have even tried to hide in rooms and sneak more device time. Then I get frustrated. I don't want to deal with kids who won't listen.

And here's another thing. Parents don't even ask if it's ok to send their kids over our house with devices.

My kids don't own devices. They borrow ours. So at least when they are using them, it is in our house and we can monitor it. (This sounds like a weird analogy to parents letting underage kids to drink at home, but I'm telling you right now we are not doing this. Ever.) 

I'm thinking of saying, "sorry, no devices at play dates."

But I'd like your advice first. Are you pro or con screens during playdates?