I have friends who don't own a television, don't let their children play video games, don't really let them have any screen time at all. They see television -- and video entertainment in general -- as bad. I really don't understand that. To me, saying that television is bad isn't much different than saying books are bad. There are good books and bad books, good television and bad television. The same goes for videos, apps, and any kind of high-tech entertainment.
There are so many wonderful educational television shows and wonderful, innovative video apps and games that I never felt the slightest bit guilty about offering them to my son. He had stacks and stacks of books, too, and I never saw them as mutually exclusive.
The saying "all things in moderation" really does apply, in my home. I’ve known some of those "no screen time at home" kids; when they visit someone else's home, you can't get them away from the television long enough to play a game or go outside. Of course, I also don't see eye to eye with the moms who hand their child an iPad while they're shopping in the supermarket or plunk their kids in front of the television alone for hours at a time.
The key, as with anything I choose for my child, is to be selective about what I let him see, limit the amount of time that he watches, and absolutely watch with him as much as I can. This last one is what keeps television from turning into our babysitter, and what can make the experience interactive and valuable.
Every mom needs a break sometimes, and it doesn’t feel like a crime to occasionally use a screen to occupy my child to get that break. But most of the time, we think of screen time as another kind of together time, so we can help our children understand what they're seeing and learn from it.
Besides, so much of what's produced for kids now is fun for grown-ups, too, that you really should start thinking of screen time as a break you take with
your child, that you both enjoy together.
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Also take a look at our Playtime Guide!Beth Weinhouse is an award-winning journalist who specializes in writing about parenting issues and women's health. She's been an editor at Ladies' Home Journal and Parenting magazines, and her work has appeared in dozens of consumer magazines and websites.