This summer, I basically let my kids have as much screen time as they wanted. The three-year-old watched endless loops of Frozen and dozens upon dozens of episodes of Caillou (why doesn’t he ever grow hair?!). The middle-schooler watched two full seasons of New Girl, Divergent three times and logged a gazillion hours on Minecraft. My nine-year-old watched a lot of Dog With a Blog, which is actually kinda funny, re-watched all the Harry Potter movies and also played a lot of Minecraft.
I wish I could say I fought them tooth and nail whenever they asked for/snuck screen time, but I didn’t. I guess it was a combination of wanting to say “yes” more this summer, needing a break from my kids who should have been signed up for more camp and being curious about what, exactly, would happen if I just let them vege out on screens whenever, wherever. Would they really watch 24/7? Would their brains turn to applesauce? Would they remember to eat?
Here’s what happened when I let my kids have unlimited screen time this summer:
At first there was a whole lot of this:
This is all six cousins on their screens while vacationing in Tuscany. Go ahead, shake your heads. It’s shameful, I know. And this is after a full 14-hours of screen time on the flight from San Francisco to Italy! They were like addicts with an endless supply of their favorite drug. Go ahead kids, OD why don’t you?
We finally staged an intervention and got them out into the real world by promising them a whole lot of this:
And guess what? They forgot about their glowing, beeping screens and they loved the real world! They did this:
The big girls even got creative and designed and sewed original outfits for the Barbie dolls.
They also made houses for the Tooth Fairy so she can rest between pick-ups (yes, everyone in my house still believes in the Tooth Fairy or at least pretends to for my sake).
The big girls also went away to sleep away camp where screens are not allowed and Lilah went to her preschool’s summer program (there are NO screens at preschool, people!). There were plenty of pool days and bike days and scooter days; plenty of dancing in the piazza and playing bocce ball and a good number of lazing around reading days. But I’m not gonna lie, there was still a lot of screen time in between.
Here’s the thing: my kids use screen time as a brain vacation. I get it. We all need down time and giving my kids screen time means I get to have some grown-up time. You know, time without three energetic, sometimes bickering, maybe crying, could be rowdy kids knocking around within close range. That time was well spent with a book or a glass of wine, around the table having adult conversation, writing or simply contemplating the view.
With school starting this week, it’ll be impossible for the kids to indulge in huge amounts of leisure screen time, which makes it a whole lot easier to wean them off their devices (thanks for doing my job, school! I love you!). Plus, while unlimited summer screen time was a win for me, and I’m pretty sure the kids felt is was a win for them, I did still feel a little guilty about it. Then, a week or so ago, we went to the California Academy of Sciences where Lilah said, “I wonder if this guy eats algae.”
“I learned it on Caillou. Fish eat algae, mom.”
So all that screen time was actually, kinda, sorta educational and I got to drink my cocktails in peace? Brilliant.