A Visionary

Josh Farnsworth
Baystateparent Magazine

How much is too much?

It’s a question that comes up frequently while trying to achieve balance in a child’s life.

How much ice cream is too much right before bed?(I would say just about any taste of it if you are hoping for them to fall asleep before midnight.)

How much sunscreen is too much to apply before heading out to the beach?(Given my fair Irish complexion, I keep applying until they shine like they just came out of a rock tumbler.) 

Moderation is hard. For kids. For adults. Especially, for adults moderating for kids.

I know how much of something I can take before disaster strikes, but converting it into 7- and 4-year-old proportions takes some advanced mathematics. Ultimately, it’s about knowing your own kids and sifting through all the voices out there trying to guilt you into one direction.

And there isthequestion when it comes to parenting moderation: how much screen time to allow your kids to have? There is a general consensus out there, right? Screen time is necessary, but “bad.”

I have no idea what to think.

I tend to jump between three schools of thought - sometimes on a daily basis:

1. Any screen beyond something very educational, is the corroding of every human’s brain.

In some cases, the “lack of screen time” becomes a point of pride.

“You know, I pretty much never let my kids watch any TV.”

What other people may think:“Thanks for that. Not sure I’m the guy who gives out the medals for accomplishments like this, but good for you.”

I am guilty of guarding the secret to how much I let them watch. I want to be popular, too, you know.

2. A screen is the greatest parent. All hail the glowing screen!

Sometimes, I believe you roll out the electronics and get the heck out of the way. 

While I enjoy a good Disney+ diversion here in there to help me out, I definitely overdo it sometimes, and get a veiled glimpse at the very real zombies forming before my very eyes. 

While I get that television is not quite what it was when my generation were kids, the outdoors isstillvery much open and great, Josh.

3. I have no idea.

Welcome to my normal school of thought.

There seems to be conflicting reports on how relatively good or bad, healthy or detrimental, many of these things seem to be. And I know, “just use moderation” is the way to go, but what does that look like? 

Do I let the kids watch just one more episode ofBluey? Does it count as culturing them if it’s something from PBS? 

I feel like a hypocrite a lot on this topic. It’s very hard to turn to my kids after watching a three-hour football game about how not to waste your life indoors during nice days.

Come on, the 49ers-Patriots game is just like hiking through a New England sunset, right?

On the other hand, it is 2020.

Moderating screen time is a difficult task normally. On bad weather days in 2020, it’s impossible. Television, phone screens, computers, etc. have the power to transport my kids places they have never been before. And since they cannot even go to most places here in town, they all also offer a virtual ride share for those destinations as well.

So, you’ve read a lot about my struggles, but here are my Josh’s Four Rules for Screens that I am hoping to enact…

  1. Treat screens like dessert.Okay, maybe more accurately, treat screens likeItreat dessert. Use it as a compliment after eating the veggies (getting exercise outside). However, sometimes having dessert for a meal has its positive notes, too. Don’t stress about letting the kids have that extra dollop of show from time to time.

  2. Merge the two disciplines when you can. In other words, take a hike after watching a nature piece on the elusive monarch butterfly or watch a cooking show together and then go and try and tackle that cherry cobbler. (Side note: If you get good at this, please send all food to baystateparent/ CC: Hungry column guy).

  3. It’s okay to have different rules for parents and kids. I work on a computer, so that screen pays the bills. That said, I will try to be better when not on the clock and try to enjoy more goofball time, less Netflix time. I promise.

  4. Don’t shame others. They are your kids, so your rules apply. Other people have different philosophies. Borrow ideas? Sure. Let that couple have it for letting their daughter watch aTop Chef marathon? Not your turf.

Topics like this can be a stressor for sure. They can remind me that, at many times during parenting, I am still flying by the seat of my pants.

But they are, indeed, your pants. 

Your seat.

So, let’s fly.

Good luck on your own screen time rules. Let’s build collaboration with tricky topics like this. Let’s have each other’s backs.

Moderation is hard enough as it is.