Screen Time, Self-Regulation, and Overcoming Fear


We don't limit screen time in our house. In fact, if you used that term with my girls, you would probably get a blank stare. 

Our girls have the freedom to choose when and for how long they want to use their computer/iPads/television. And in experiencing this freedom, they learn to self-regulate. They listen to their bodies and follow their passions. 

"But don't your kids sit in front of a screen all day
if you aren't telling them not to?"! They DO choose other activities like playing outside, doing a puzzle, or creating art instead. On their own. Without me nagging and hovering and hounding and setting timers. It removes a lot of  the drama that I witness in other families over "screens". 

It doesn't have to be a struggle. 

Our girls use technology in the same way that Matt and I use it. AS A TOOL. A tool for research. A tool for entertainment. A tool to build community. A tool to ENJOY. 


Enjoy?! Yes. We use them as a tool of JOY! We love watching television. We love our computers. We love iPads and iPhones...little mobile vessels of joy! 

Pam Sorooshian, an unschooling pioneer, has this to say about using technology as a shaming and punishment tool:

"Instead of focusing on limiting it and explaining how it is bad, see it as a jumping-off point for all kinds of experiences and conversations! Unschooling is about supporting learning, not by limiting the child's access to what he/she loves, but by expanding a child's access to the world."

A thousand times yes! I wanted to copy and paste her entire write-up about this topic. Because I love her and she explains it perfectly. But you just need to jump on over and read the rest of it.

The beginning of the paragraph is especially brilliant regarding discontinuing the use of the term "screen time". Be sure to click on some of the other awesome references on Sandra's blog. Her site is a treasure trove of information on every imaginable unschooling topic. And her book, an unschooling "bible"! 

But don't children need boundaries?
Doesn't TV rot your brain?!

I get the sense from many homeschooling parents that there is pressure to make sure their children are "learning all the time". In every activity. In every way. There is a lot of fear happening. 

Fear that their children might not learn enough. Fear that "screen time" makes kids hyperactive (more on that on Jen's awesome post on this same topic). Fear that children cannot make good decisions on their own. Fear fear fear. Life gets really wonky when it's lived in fear. 

"Be careful about living a life ruled by unreasonable fear or you'll be overprotective and controlling of your kids."  -Pam Sorooshian

Ask yourself the hard questions. Explore exactly WHY and HOW you came upon your opinions about "screen time". I know that for me, my initial ideas came from a cacophony of random sources in my early years of parenting. I have since reconsidered all of it.  We allow our children to make choices that are life-bringing for them. 

Instead of fear, we choose FREEDOM.

They are freely exploring and learning the language of the future. I would much rather have my child learn how to type and communicate effectively online than learn how to write in cursive on paper. Technology is here to stay. It is not something we need to fear. 

Last night, as I typed out this post on my iPhone, my little Lucy (almost 5) is laid next to me, busily creating her world in Minecraft, a favorite around here.  She came in to go to bed but realized she wasn't as tired as she thought. So instead we worked side-by-side without conflict over screen time (or bedtime for that matter). When she was tired, she put her iPad down and went to sleep.

We discuss respectful boundaries with how it makes other's feel when they bring their iPad to dinner. We talk about common courtesy and how to use technology wisely. We talk about how our bodies feel if we've been using the computer all day. Instead of setting arbitrary rules, we talk. We ask their opinion. We TRUST them.

I know that nearly everyone with children has dealt with this decision at one time or another. It's one that provokes big feelings and strong emotions. Please know that it's a PROCESS and that what works perfectly for our family, may not work exactly the same way in yours. It will take on a new look with different children and different personalities. This is not an attack on your process. Let's share and discuss this topic in a kind manner, without judgement. 

How has technology enhanced your life?
How do your children currently use technology?

Are you wondering what unschooling looks like in our day-to-day life? Check it out here.