Mama Says: “I Need Screen Time!”

Ask a Mama:  I Need TV!

Dear Mama
How do I handle my kids running around fighting and screaming when it is pouring rain outside, they are sick of their toys, and I need 30 minutes of peace? I love the idea of no screen time, but sometimes it seems like the ONLY solution.

Confession:  I used the TV when the kids were young. In fact I wrote some of my book 101 Alternatives to Television while the kids watched TV because I was on a deadline and they were sick of doing projects and I needed them to be quiet to write. We didn’t have cable, the TV was tiny, and we only got one station so they were limited in what they could watch. It got pretty boring unless I slipped in a video.

When I shut off the TV, there was hell to pay. Four kids went feral with a flip of a switch. They turned on me yelling they were hungry or worse, BORED, then turned on each other restless and twitchy and provoking until I distracted them with food or herded them into the car for an errand. It is different today—there is a wide range of quality shows on the internet and it is easy to put the I-pad or computer in their laps and get stuff done.Ask a Mama:  I Need TV!

BUT—there will always be hell to pay when the screen goes dark. It is almost as if kids know they are supposed to be jumping and running and climbing—moving their bodies—instead of sitting passively in front of a show watching other kids jump and climb and run . TV steals time from developing brains and bodies, and the aftermath when it got turned off always felt worse to me than the brief carved out peace of screen time.

So here is what I did—I filled boxes with interesting things. I made a dress-up box, a bead bucket with elastic string to make necklaces, an art box, an inventor’s box, and an electricity kit with wires and batteries and tiny motors. We had massive boxes of Legos and I asked for indestructible vehicles that would survive a trip rolling down the stairs. I had what I considered the Danger Box that was pulled out as a last resort discoverywith many warnings (ours had pieces of machinery, 3 kinds of tape, and an old egg beater). I put the boxes in a handy place where they could pull them out themselves, except for the Danger Box.

Most times the boxes worked, sometimes they didn’t. Sometimes on those cold dark Northwest afternoons I put in a movie, but not very often. It was their job to deal with boredom, and my job to see they got healthy doses of it. ‘I am the boss,’ I told myself, and sometimes screen time and candy trumped good intentions. That’s what bosses get to do: decide.

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