Life

Mommy's Grounded

Parents need to cut down on screen time too

By Bianca Bujan

As my oldest child rambled on about her school day happenings, I shifted my eyes from her face to the screen of my iPhone, swiping my thumb across its surface while muttering, “Oh nice..” and “Mhmm, that sounds interesting…”

Suddenly I realized that she had stopped speaking. She stood frozen in front of me, her eyes fixed on mine, waiting for my response. I had glazed over while reading an e-mail on my phone and had completely missed the question that was asked of me.

Guilt ridden, I asked her to repeat the question. She responded cooly with, “Sure, if you put down your phone.”

That’s when it hit me. I was constantly worrying about how much screen time I allowed my children to enjoy, when the reality was, it was me who needed to cut down on my phone use - especially while in the presence of my kids.

When I’m at a playground or enjoying a meal at a restaurant, our dependence on devices as a society becomes glaringly obvious. I see eyes glued to phones while children play unattended, and I see parents reaching for iPads before they’re even seated at a restaurant, prepared to keep their children quiet and distracted so they can enjoy a meal in peace.

Portable devices provide instant gratification, solace in an otherwise stressful situation, and a way to avoid awkward conversations in public places. It makes sense that they’ve taken over our lives. They’re addictive, and accessible. But the more time we spend looking down, the more we miss out on face-to-face interactions and quality time with our kids.

Too much screen time for kids has become a top parenting concern in recent years. In fact, screen time was found to be the number one cause of mom guilt according to a recent survey conducted by Chatelaine. Of the one thousand 35 to 45-year-old women surveyed, nearly half responded that worrying about how much time their kids spend watching TV or playing on devices was their primary parenting penitence.

Digital dependence is a learned habit. Kids see us grabbing for our phones, urgently affixed to our screens, and dividing our attention between our parenting duties and our digital addictions - it’s no wonder they follow suit and adopt the same habits.

As parents, we need to act as media mentors for our children. We need to not only restrict and monitor their time spent staring at screens, but we need to set an example by doing the same for ourselves as well.

Bianca Bujan is a mom of three, freelance writer, and marketing consultant. She tweets at @bitsofbee and blogs at www.bitsofbee.com. Comments: bitsofbee@yahoo.ca.