Freaking Out over an App is Wasted Time.

Focusing on why we shove screens in our kids’ faces might be a better idea.

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“A little girl wearing orange-red playing in the sand in Cao Lãnh” by MI PHAM on Unsplash

There is a really simple solution to being terrified by Facebook app for kids: limit screen time. There are things like, ya know, Legos, fresh air and art supplies that can be equally as engrossing and, maybe even beneficial. Yes, screens are being used more and more in schools, this I do understand. So then, make something different happen at home.

Look, I’m no Luddite. We were one of the first households to have a personal computer in it. I played King’s Quest on floppy disks and learned to make goofy things happen with Basic. I made art from ascii, and eventually I helped build a bunch of the internet (especially the Web) as we know it. Technology has always been my friend.

I’ve got a fancy new smartphone, mostly so I can send high-quality pictures to the grandparents. I read books on Kindle. My daughter always asks if we can look things up on “the Googilator” or “the Youtubilator”, or whether I’m posting a picture I’ve just taken to Facebook. She is seven, and this is her world now, too. Yet simultaneously, she has to read books before she can watch a very limited selection (PBS Kids, mostly) on the 5 year old iPad that’s been designated for this sole purpose.

I’ve been a single mom. I know the value of some tablet-time when the dishes need done, an adult conversation or phone call needs to happen, or a single little moment of silence is desired, but it is fully possible to parent young children without them having constant screen access — I die a little every single time I see a small, small child in a stroller, and instead of looking out at the world around them, they’ve got a tablet shoved in their faces.

The only problem with limiting screen time is that as parents, we also need to emulate this behavior, and at this point, we’ve got parents in this world who’ve never known anything else. Telling them to be “freaked out” over an app when they’re already addicted to several of their own probably isn’t going to work. There’s no need to freak out, though. Energy flows where attention goes — put it toward something beneficial.

Compulsive storyteller. Ada Comstock Scholar at Smith College.

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