Oh Screen Time; what will we do with you?
Updated: Nov 24, 2019
So we’ve just come out of the first part of Sukkot 5780 and it was, Baruch HaShem, magical. In fact the whole “season”’of chaggim have been a haze of magic, so far.
In Elul my husband and I made the decision to have an exclusively home based, no commitment, arrangement-free Rosh Hashana. We felt it’s what our family needed - emotionally, spiritually, and physically; but we were scared. 48 solid hours at home with a 2 and 4 year old with zero distractions. We had no idea what lay in store for us...
For me, it was basically the best Chag in living memory.
I left the house for the sum total of an hour to hear Shofar on first day and the rest of my time was spent at home, on the floor, with my children. The same for my husband bar Shachris, Mincha, and Maariv. The experience was nourishing and constructive on every level. And it jolted me. My children were so calm. So obedient. So together. We all were. It was pure magic. Geshmak.
And then motzei-Chag - out came the iPhones...
We don’t have formal TV or iPads at home so the “watching” bouquet is limited to a small selection of animated Disney movies; Harry Potter (‘...always’); or saved-to-offline videos in YouTube. These consist of either: Peppa Pig, Steve and Maggie, or Blippi.
As an aside I highly recommend these for their educational value. My kids have genuinely learned some facts. Steve and Maggie is an English for foreign language children curriculum and it’s expanded my kids’ vocabulary enormously.
But back to the point:
After Chag I was so incredibly tempted to can the whole thing and institute a full-blown, zero screen time rule. Rules are sort of my thing you see; and extreme statements and sweeping, grand gestures give me life. Or do they?
I started to think about how life would be without any screens. Of course there would be the initial outcry. But then there would be the calm. The gloriously, peaceful calm of children on the rug building LEGO castles for hours whilst I nurse an organic pot of vegetable soup on the stove. Barefoot.
But children on the rug need to become adults in the world. And one inalienable truth of this world is the existence and necessity of screens. Love them or hate them, screens are here to stay. And they can really serve us if we are conscious.
That’s not even taking into account the fact that I don’t want to forgo my phone all together, so banning it for my kids would mean presenting a false image. I gain so much healthy benefit from my smart phone I don’t want to lie and pretend it’s evil.
Plus I really don’t want my children to be those at the proverbial birthday party buffet, stuffing their faces with sweets until they’re sick. Those children who aren’t allowed sweets at home so lose all sense of time and place when presented with a box of smarties.
I don’t want them to have any strong feelings towards screens at all actually, other than to view them in the hierarchy of the functionality of their lives.
So here I am again, riding that pendulum from an extreme pole back to the resting place in the middle. We will have screens. They will serve us. I will monitor it because I am the mom. And it will be fine.
To deny the necessary of a screen today, is to deny reality in my humble opinion.
And it is my fiercest mission to model intelligent and successful navigation of the reality of this life for those humans whom I’ve inflicted reality upon.
I endeavor only to foster well-adjusted adults. Adults who don’t think an iPhone is the 2020 equivalent of a toddler-birthday-party-bowl-of-flings.