Why I’m Not Raising Screen-Free Kids and Why I'm Passionate About Kids Podcasts
Updated: Oct 6, 2022
Parenting comes with many dilemmas, but one that has brought me the most anxiety over the years is figuring out screens and devices. How much, how old, what shows, what apps, tablets, phones, video games, Roblox, Fortnight … Do I give in or do I shun it all? But it’s not just figuring out what’s good for my kids, it’s also the guilt that comes along with knowing that screens save me as a parent a lot of the time. We’re sent so many messages, so many policy changes, and the “screen-free kids” mantra constantly held as the ideal. Anytime my kids were on a screen it felt like a small defeat.
When my kids were younger and first starting to watch Netflix on their own, I came up with the thumbs up system. Knowing that given the choice my boys would always pick Ninjago over Magic School Bus, I wanted to have a way to differentiate between quality shows and shows that are maybe lacking in certain things.
Thumbs up was anything educational or positive — no violence or mindless entertainment, no dumb humor, etc. Thumbs sideways were shows that weren’t all bad, but they weren’t great either, just a neutral choice. And thumbs down shows weren’t necessarily banned, but things we only watched occasionally - usually a bit of time on Saturday mornings was reserved for all the junk (aka YouTube). So when my kids would ask to watch something during the week, I would say, “Sure, one episode of a thumbs up show.” When they found something new, we’d have a quick chat about what they thought it should be thumbs-wise. And it worked pretty well. I felt a minor victory - they still got the screen time they wanted (and I needed) and I didn’t have to micromanage their choices.
Now, is there really any scientific proof that a thumbs up show is any better than a thumbs down show? No. It probably was most helpful in rationalizing their screen time and keeping me from feeling too guilty. But as they’ve gotten older and our range of devices and options have expanded, it’s gotten harder and harder to manage. And the anxiety, confusion and guilt has become greater and greater. I constantly feel like I’m winging it — I don’t have a consistent guide to make decisions with anymore and it feels like my kids are slipping deeper and deeper into this world that I know nothing about.
But, I think I’ve figured it out. And I’m calling it screen-positive kids. One thing I know is that technology isn’t going away. It’s only going to get faster, more ingrained in our everyday life, and more necessary for our kids future. That’s why it never felt great to shove everything my kids do with a device into one bucket labeled “bad for you.” There’s so much good out there! Kids podcasts being one of my favorites.
It never felt great to shove everything my kids do with a device into one bucket labeled “bad for you.” There’s so much good out there! Kids podcasts being one of my favorites.
Instead of continuing to promote a fear of screens — this complicated relationship where our kids are constantly told that what they love and are interested in is bad for them and they shouldn’t want it — what if we nurtured a mature relationship with technology? Similar to what we strive for as adults, we can teach our kids how to make good choices for themselves. We can teach the difference between screen time that enhances our lives and screen time that is fun, but takes away from real life. Screen time that helps us learn, grow, connect, relax, and be entertained vs. screen time that steals time away from friends, family, and individual pursuits and may even makes us feel worse about ourselves.
Above all, we can help our kids notice the effect different activities have on their moods, their relationships, their education and their goals so that they can start WANTING to make good choices rather than having to force them.
The ultimate goal is for our kids to have a positive relationship with technology — one in which they are in control rather than being controlled. We can’t continue to praise screen-free kids. Screen-free time? For sure. But never? It’s not realistic, and I would argue it’s not healthy in the long run. The sooner we can help kids learn to make good choices on their own, the better. Moderation in all things - even moderation in moderation 😉
Don’t get me wrong: Being a screen-positive parent takes WORK. It means figuring out routines and screen-time rules that work for your family, researching quality entertainment, building positive traditions around technology and, most importantly, having a constant and open conversation about screens and modeling positive habits ourselves.
So why am I not raising screen-free kids? Because I’m not a screen-free parent. The internet, social media, movies, TV, podcasts, music, FaceTime... I love it all. And it makes my life better - so long as I’m mindful about my choices. And that’s what I want for my kids.
At Kidspod, we believe being screen-positive means….
1. Kids are to be respected and given the tools needed to drive their own curiosity, exploration, and education.
2. Technology should enhance our lives, not control it.
3. Screen time for kids should inspire connection, growth and creativity in the REAL world.
And that podcasts are the best #screenpositive activity. Obviously. That’s why we’re building the best kids podcast app on the market.
You still with me? If so, let’s start celebrating and sharing the ways technology makes our lives better! Let’s share the BEST things on the internet and the way our kids are using them. Let’s take the shame out of screen time, once and for all.