Screen time and Scream Time

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As a kid, I was always energetic and active. My fondest memories include all the times in the playground, messing around in the sandbox, and playing ball with my friends. Being the hyper kid that I was, the playground was not only a place of fun for me but also a place I could release all my pent-up energy. And boy, did I have a lot of it, just like any other small kid. Looking back now, I wonder my mom probably thanked the heavens, that instead of jumping, running, and wrecking through her house, I fulfilled all that outdoors. And now, as a parent myself, I correctly understand her. Any parent with a rather lively child is going to get exhausted, trying to calm them down. However, in this new age of parenting, managing your kid’s energy has become relatively easier by giving them an iPad, TV, phone, gaming console, etc. Initially, I was against giving my child access to social media sites such as YouTube but quickly jumped on the ‘digital nanny’ bandwagon, as it helped to keep him out of trouble and entertained while I did my daily errands. For my child’s 7th birthday, I got him an iPad, and at that time, it seemed like my savior. The little device kept my kid quiet, occupied, and educated him since I made sure he’d watch educational content whenever he grabbed the device. All in all, I thought it was a great and handy little tool that made my daily life as a parent a lot easier. And while it certainly made my often-chaotic mom’s life more manageable, it also made it a bit bland. And while it did entertain my kid (don’t get me wrong – he loves watching videos and gaming), it also made him a bit of a couch potato.Kids using screens are not necessarily bad, too much and excessive screen time is unhealthy and detrimental. Hence, we, as parents, need to develop plans and strategies for our children to use their electronics in moderation. If tackled gently and carefully, this will definitely help in the children’s growth and allow them to have more fun and enjoyable memories outside of their screens in this digitally driven world.

Playing outside was still fun for him, just not as much as it was before. His friends were also caught up with their phones, so when he did go outside, he had fewer friends to play with. After sitting down and contemplating this, I asked myself: will my son’s childhood memories be filled with memories of his iPad’s screen, instead of those filled with family time and meaningful experiences? In all honesty, the question caused a bad feeling in my stomach. That was the sign that let me know that it was time to change things. In short – it was time to decrease screen time and increase scream time.

What’s scream time, you may ask?

Well, putting it blankly – a time filled with laughter and fun. As parents, we should provide our children with as many loving memories as possible because, after all, our kid is only a kid for a little while. As Alan Brown has said, “Whether you are a parent or not, carving out time to turn off your devices, to disconnect from the wired world and engage with the real people who are all around you, is one of the best gifts you can give yourself and the people you love.” When my son grows up and reminisces of his time as a child, I don’t want him to have blurry memories of him sitting on the couch staring at his favorite YouTuber – I would like his memories to be full of laughter and love. Not to mention that having my son sit in front of a screen for prolonged periods can be harmful to his eyes and also cause behavioral issues as he grows up. So, after expressing my thoughts to my husband, we made a plan to ‘structure up’ his electronics time. Every Sunday, we as a family would partake in a fun activity, whether that be a simple walk in the park or a full-on camping trip. After our first ‘ scream time Sunday ‘, I could see the change in our son – he was visibly happy because he got to experience something new and had a new vessel to take his energy out on.

Other simple ways that you can use to reduce your kid’s screen time include communication, negotiating, and finding alternatives. What I mean by this is, to make sure your child’s screen time does not collapse and merge into their scream time, establish clear boundaries on when and how much time they can spend attached to electronics. For example, while gaming, set a timer to know when it is time to stop playing. Specify clearly when they should not be using screens, like during dinnertime. Balance their day by spending quality time with them and try to be involved in more activities like music, sport, art, etc. And speaking from experience, trust me, will make them happier and be a positive change in their development.

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