CHENNAI: Two televisions, a desktop, two laptops, 2 Kindle Paper Whites, one Kindle Fire, one very old iPad, one Android tablet and 3 smartphones. There are 13 screens in our home. I had to rewrite that sentence a few times, because every time I thought I was done, a new gizmo reminded me of it’s existence in our lives. Is this normal I ask myself? Should a family of four have this many gadgets? I feel cringingly ashamed on the one hand, and yet on the other I think… well phones don’t REALLY count do they?
How did this happen? How did we allow so many of these thin, shiny objects to creep into our life like this? From two people, two phones and one television we have leapt to 4 people and 13 screens in 13 years.
I marvel at families with zero screens in their home. I look upon these people as I would a Victoria Secret’s models abs. How? How is it possible? Don’t you crave cheese Ambrosia? Don’t you want to watch videos of cats terrorising children people?
The problem is, the adults in our home love popular culture. We watch GoT, HoC, Billions. We forward TED talks to each other and listen to podcasts. To have screen time for ourselves and forbid our children is a double standard. (We will ignore that I eat Mars Bars post 10 pm whilst extolling the virtues of carrot sticks to the young ‘uns)
Till last week, we were coasting along at a comfortable 30 minutes of screen time a day for the boys. But even this amount slowly began to enroach upon time set aside for other pursuits. Like eating and brushing teeth. In a city where long commutes are the norm, my kids are home by 4 pm. And with a 6.15 am wake up call the next morning, they need to be in bed by 8.15 latest. So we have 4 hours give or take to finish homework, play, flush the toilet, eat, bathe, play some more and read a bed time book. Given this scenario, 30 minutes on screen time seemed excessive.
So we decided that screen time would now be limited to Friday, Saturday and Sunday during term time. There was some resistance and protesting, but I squashed it by talking loudly and waving my arms about.
But like the Brexiters, I’m waking up to the full implications of this decision. After taking it. I am Googling what ‘No screen time’ actually means.
What it means is, that on Friday I played Uno four times in a row. Yesterday I had to actually referee a brotherly brawl and listen to both sides of the story and solve the situation. The screen is no longer bandied about in situations great and small. Boredom is resolved the old fashioned way. Tantrums are allowed to play out before they die a natural, exhausted death.
I felt a sense of immense wholesome goodness yesterday, as I scrolled through my emails in the evening. Until the five-year-old pointed out that I should give up my screen time too. Fair’s fair. But first, let me see the new Kanye West video. As my children used to say, “Five more minutes?”
(The writer’s parenting philosophy is: if there’s no blood, don’t call me)