It’s a fairly common thing to hear parents talk about “screen time” limits for their kids these days. Between cartoons, video games, computers, smart phones and tablets, kids are exposed now more than ever to video entertainment. I worked in childcare for over a decade and would often hear stories from kids and parents alike about how each family would handle making sure time spent staring at the TV or DS was kept to a limited amount. But I was always on the outside looking in.
Now, as the parent of a toddler, I see firsthand how easy it is to fall back on electronic media to entertain or calm my son. He is at the age where he recognizes what these devices are for and he’s beginning to enjoy and even rely on their uses. It didn’t seem so long ago that he would pay the television no mind when it was on, or could care less what was on my iPhone. But now he knows what YouTube is and how to click a video link on the iPad to play it. He is in love with Sesame Street, and he’s even started showing interest in the WiiU game pad whenever I play. These things are cute and all, but I knew there was problem when he started saying “Uh-Oh” every time we would turn the TV off.
As I started thinking more and more about this issue, I realized that screen time exposure is so much further reaching than just my 1 year old son. We are ALL wrapped up in staring at our screens too much. Hell, you’re doing it right now! Society as a whole has become entangled in our devices to the point that we’re cutting ourselves off from each other. The grand majority of us carry a smart phone on us at all times and chances are we pull it out to update our statuses, snap our ridiculous selfies or watch throw-away viral videos far more often than we should.
After a trip to the mall with my family this last weekend I saw so many families who were there together, but in truth were completely in their own world, staring down at their phones as they walked mindlessly side-by-side. It made me sad. It also made me appreciate the moment I was having with my family. Being truly together and engaging with one another.
I also recognize that I, of all people, am probably more guilty of over-exposure to the screen than many. I work at my job as a 3D artist and digital designer perched behind four of my own computer screens for 8+ hours a day, my work on Mega Dads and my own personal art jobs require time in front of my computer in the office, my passion of video games of course requires me staring at a screen while I play, and of course there are all the great shows that I watch weekly with my wife at night while relaxing after a hard day. I’ve come to the conclusion that probably a good 80% of my waking hours are spent in front of a screen of some kind, and that is kinda terrifying.
I, as a father, owe it to both my son and myself to set a better example and create a more engaging environment for my family. We need more walks to the park and less Splatoon. I look forward to the day that I can teach my son to play guitar like his old man, or show him how to draw and create characters in his sketch book. I can’t wait to take him and his mom to a Vikings game or a concert when he is old enough. There really IS a lot of world to show him, and I’m going to make ever effort to show him as much of it as I can in person.
This week’s speed painting is Chrono from the SNES classic Chrono Trigger!