Thursday, October 1, 2015

Screen Time

Today I want to talk about screen time. No, this is not a post to make your feel guilty about how much time your kids spend looking at screens. This is a post to make you feel guilty about how much time you spend looking at screens in the presence of your kids. To be honest, I don't want you to feel guilty about it at all, so I will try to frame this around my own difficulties with screen time.

There are too many articles out there ready to shame parents for ignoring their kids, and I don't want this to be another one. I think we all know deep down when we're spending too much time on our screens. At least I do. Sometimes I get an almost addicted feeling, like I reeeeeeeeeeeeally need to be on a screen, and then I feel guilty that not only am I on my screen when I shouldn't be but that I am unable to stop myself from being on a screen.

The biggest problem with all these articles about distracted parents is that they are full of finger-wagging but offer little in the way of remedying the problem, aside from telling you to just stop being on your screen. 'Cause that's always been helpful...

Frankly, I find it amusing that people are so quick to blame the latest technology for the fact that parents are more distracted these days. Back in my day my mom ignored us with a good book. We had to work hard to entertain ourselves without raising her ire by fighting or making too big of a mess. I'm fairly certain this helped us develop our social skills and imaginations (or maybe our negotiating skills: "OK, if you won't tell mom about this bad thing I did, I won't tell her about that bad thing you did."). My mom was lucky that she didn't have the entire Internet telling her how awful she was for ignoring her kids. In fact, moms today spend more time with their kids than did moms in the 60s. I wonder if it has anything to do with all this internet guilt?


I'm not here to tell you that you should ignore the critics and spend as much time on your screen as you'd like. I do think that benevolent neglect is a thing that every parent should practice. And as I pointed out, it's not about being on a screen. It's about distracting yourself. The question is, what are you distracting yourself from? 

In this NSFW video, Louis C.K. talks about how we distract ourselves from feeling things we don't want to feel using our phones (among other things). 

Louis is one wise guy. He's right: we can never be fully happy if we don't let ourselves feel fully sad. BrenĂ© Brown talks about this in her book "Daring Greatly." She says: “We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.” When we're spending time on our screens (even if it isn't around our kids) for the purpose of distracting ourselves from our lives, we are doing ourselves a disservice.

Here's what I've noticed about when I feel a really strong craving for my screen. Usually I haven't had a lot of alone time. Sometimes I'm also really tired. Oftentimes, I haven't done any self-care like exercise or meditation in a few days. My cup is dry, and being on a screen helps me to fill it, even if it's just a few drops. 

My drug of choice

Again, I'm not here to guilt anyone. Making yourself feel guilty does not solve the problem. Being more mindful of why we do the things we do and meeting ourselves with compassion will. We don't need to give up technology or whatever else it is that we use to distract ourselves as long as we are being intentional and mindful with its use. Start with doing what really fills your cup instead of settling for just a few drops.

For Further Thought:

1) What obstacle gets in the way of filling your cup, and settling for drops of self-care instead?
2) What is your distraction drug of choice?
3) What are you distracting yourself from?

For Further Reading:

Fried Okra: Dear Mom on the Iphone, I Get It
Abundant Life Children: Can I Have Your Attention, Please?
The Momiverse: 14 Steps to Being a Less Distracted Parent
Janet Lansbury: Do Wired Parents Need a Time Out...or Less Guilt?
Not Just Cute: How to Pull it Together When You’re Parenting on Empty
Regarding Baby: Take Care of Yourself and When Technology Brings Us Together
Respectful Parent: Connection and Disconnection: Parenting with Smartphones
Time: The Case for Somewhat Distracted Parenting

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