|This is what happens when you ask my son to smile for the camera.|
Here you see the Little Man posing with his Christmas present from one set of grandparents. It's a Leapster GS, one of those little game systems for kiddos that are intended to be educational. He loves this toy, of course- It's just like the ones mom and dad and the big kids have, with all the right buttons and sounds. And it's a well designed device, simple enough for him to use on his own with very little help, but offering a wide variety of different activities.
Up until now, Guy and I have had a pretty straightforward view on Kai's exposure to screen time- less is better, none is best. We've limited his TV to when he's sick and lethargic; limited his iPad use to special circumstances such as long car rides and airplanes; limited computer use to Skypeing his grandparents for the most part. Of course we haven't been perfect, but those were our ideals and we've stuck to them pretty well, because we both believe that exposure to TV and such at an early age is a big contributor to AD/HD and a host of other learning difficulties.
This gift has been the perfect catalyst to re-examine our policies now that Kai is no longer a baby, but a little boy. It's pretty clear that we won't be able to keep his world screen-free- we're both too hooked to our own devices to model it well, so the screens would become the forbidden fruit that he'd overindulge in at the first chance. But we want to encourage a balance, where he spends more time in active, imaginative play and recognizes that screen time is a treat, like sweets, that we indulge in sparingly.
Luckily, Guy and I had already done a lot of talking about what we wanted to do about screen time as Kai got older, so it was pretty easy to decide on a policy to put into place. And here it is-
1. We don't mention it unless he asks for it. If he's happy playing with toys, we let that keep going.
2. If he asks to watch TV or "do game", we assign him a clean-up job to do first- something like "Pick up all of your Legos" or "Put your books in your book basket."
3. There is an absolute upper time limit per day. He can watch one episode of a show or play his game for 25 minutes (the length of an episode.)
The idea we are working with is that screen time needs to be balanced with productive work. Guy and I are also examining the example we are showing, and we've both decided that we're coming up short. So we're bringing this idea into our own routines as well- before we sit down and do something passive, we need to spend time doing something creative, productive, or active. So yesterday I sewed for a while, and Guy worked on some spaceship models. We're going to work on doing more writing and playing music as well. It seems like a good way to start off the year.