Is The Screentime Issue A Connection Issue?


Screens are addictive, we all know that. Right? Or do we? Today my daughter came back from Kindergarten, and ate her lunch while watching her ipad. A few minutes after eating she begged me for special time. She turned her Sylvanian house into a hotel with rooms and beds for all the guests and we did an hour long special time.

Then we went to the shop to get snacks and hang the washing out. Then she told me that she’d go inside and have a rest and watch her ipad, then do a bit more special time. So she watched again for a short time and then we played a bit with her toy Octonauts. Then she made some ‘youtube’ videos to show the viewers around the hotel ( I don’t really put the videos on youtube but our family and friends are her subscribers!).

She watched TV a bit longer and then she told me she was bored of it and started to prepare a snack for Kindergarten the next day (on her own initiative). As I write she’s hanging out with her dad and choosing an outfit for tomorrow – also her idea!

I’m always going back and forth about the screentime issue, constantly readjusting my game plan, and trying to follow my instincts. When my daughter first started Kindergarten, I found myself setting a lot of limits with screens, particularly if she asked for it first thing when she walked in the door. I felt like she had a lot of feelings coming up about starting Kindergarten, and that I need to set a limit and staylisten. (You can read more about the Hand in Hand Parenting approach to setting limits here )

But then I began to feel like I was setting too many limits, and it was no longer about listening to my daughter’s feelings but about my own controlling attitude to her screentime. I felt that this was getting in the way of us having a good connection.

When I stopped hovering around her trying to think of creative suggestions to get her off screen, she would watch for a while and then stop, completely of her own accord. I began to focus on respecting my daughter’s genuine interest in screens, allow her to use them until she feels ready to stop, allowing her to soak up inspiration for her own film-making!

Screens can be addictive but not always. Today reminded me that when our children are well-connected, they can use screens in a healthy way. Focusing on our own addictive use of screens can also make it easier to help navigate the screentime dilemma. Taking a leap of trust in our children’s ability to self-regulate is also helpful, as well as stepping in and setting limits when they need them.

As I finish writing I can hear my daughter playing independently as my husband makes dinner. She just came in to drop me off a little note with her name on and some kisses.

I don’t have any foolproof answers, but I do think that when we fill up our child’s connection cup, and give them plenty of opportunity for emotional release, then it’s much less likely that they’ll use screens addictively. As addictions expert Johann Hari says, ‘the opposite of addiction is connection.’

I also think it’s important not to use the screen as a pacifier to give to our child when we are busy and unavailable. I think that can actually create an addiction because our child then learns to gravitate towards the screen rather than to us when they are feeling disconnected. In this article here Patty Wipfler explains that a bored child is actually a disconnected child. If we can give our children connection when they are bored rather than entertainment in the form of an electronic device, we reduce the chance of them becoming addicted.

How about you? How is your family handling screentime? What has worked for you and what’s not working? If you’d like some tips based on Hand in Hand Parenting then feel free to leave a comment below!

You can read more about the importance of connection in reducing addictive behaviour in my book Tears Heal: How to listen to our children

Tears Heal2016

A Mum Track Mind

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7 thoughts on “Is The Screentime Issue A Connection Issue?

  1. I am OK with my son’s screen use 30-60 minutes a day. because he is learning SO MUCH! It’s like reading newspapers and books, watching documentaries, etc. Plus everything is in English!

    He also knows he needs to do his homework, brush his teeth, whatever duties he has, first.

    As long as he still loves to go out and play with his friends, finds things to do around the house that doesn’t involve gadgets, oh, and as long as he is not into violent video games. Once I notice he’s shooting peoople’s heads off, we’re going to have to re-evaluate.

    PS: I always have to look in the mirror and be aware of my own screen time. Role model and all…

  2. I use the screen a lot. Especially at the moment just to try and get something done. It’s used when i’m trying to make breakfast, or to be honest, when i need a break. I feel dreadfully guilty over it, but with all the other bad stuff i do as a parent, i don’t think i’m doing to bad. You’re right hough, i need to watch myself, as seeing me walk around with my phone all the time can’t be good for them! #fortheloveofBLOG

  3. This is such a tricky topic in our household and like you we are constantly tweaking our screentime boundaries. The girls will come and go with the telly (apart from if it’s Peppa Pig on!) but our eldest is a tellyaddict and will NEVER leave it on his own accord so we allow 30 – 40 mins on his device in the morning after he’s dressed, breakfasted and school ready (gives me time to dress the girls etc) and then the telly ‘works’ from 4.30pm on a school day so we’ve had some time together after pick-up. I hate being fairly rigid but he needs it at the moment. Today hubby baked biscuits with him, they drew pics of each other, we read together snuggled watching ‘strictly’ catch-up so I hope he isn’t feeling disconnected but I fear sometimes that is the case with the toddler twins to contend with….. Your daughter sounds like a dream – well done Mummy. x #fortheloveofBLOG x

  4. It’s really interesting take on screen time. We have had a bit of a love-hate relationship with screens; no more so than right now as I try to keep my early-risers quiet in my in-laws house before our house is ready.

    I blogged a while back about our screen-free week ( because I felt we were all using the screens too much. Now, I find we have a much healthier balance. I do impose strict screen rules when it comes to food though. My eldest is incredibly picky and I am worried a screen would become another crutch.

    I am a big fan of kid-led initiatives! #fortheloveofBLOG

  5. We set pretty strict rules on screen time as one of my children would choose to do it all the time if he could. We find if he goes over that time he gets much more dissatisfied with everything and is less able to engage in free play and family time. I think the ideal is to be child lead but we are not at the point where that would work for us. #brilliantblogposts

  6. I think I worry a bit less about screen time than I thought I would. I never really worry about the kids watching TV as they are at the age when it is under my control so I choose what goes on and there are some lovely educational programmes out there so we enjoy watching and learning together. They both have Kids Kindles which they get on a Sat and Sun morning and can watch / play what they want but have no access to the internet except for Kindle for Kids games/shows etc so I don’t have to worry about what they are watching. My daughter can certainly take it or leave it, but my son does love playing with his Kindle so does need me to help him regulate how long he spends on it! #Brilliantblogposts

  7. With two teens and a pre-teen in our house, screens are big business round these parts. I don’t mind as long as they aren’t obsessively on them and we have some rules about when they are not to use them (meals, out of the house, bedtimes etc).Thanks for sharing on #fortheloveofBLOG

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