Why my partner and I don’t see eye-to-eye on screen time

Kinderling News & Features

Shevonne Hunt is the host of Kinderling Conversation.

I’m a bit nervous about next week. It’s the start of Kinderling Kids Radio’s Screen Free Challenge, and as the host of Kinderling Conversation, there is no escaping my own involvement.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally on board with the idea. It’s not a cold-turkey kind of challenge. It’s about aspiring to a more balanced approach to screen time and consciously taking time out once a week to do something different as a family.

Having said that, you’re reading the words of a woman whose son, only just two years old, knows how to stop a DVD, pull it out, and put his own preferred movie in the machine.

And this isn’t just about me. This is my whole family. People, you’re about to get reality radio, and my suspicion is that it’s not going to be pretty.

My darling husband Daniel is part of the deal. And, bless him, he’s one of those people who love their gadgets. He’s a professional photographer, so I think it must come with the territory. He loves his screens, and he thinks we’re very balanced when it comes to screen time.  

I don’t quite agree.

I grew up in a family where we weren’t allowed to watch TV from Monday to Friday, and only on weekends before 9am and after 4pm. I became obsessed with the TV, and was known at sleep overs to be the last child standing, way into the early hours of the morning, watching Oliver as the other children slept soundly. I was not going to miss one minute of TV when I could get it.

As an adult this childhood has left me with a distinct impression that watching TV in the middle of the day is a very unhealthy thing.

My husband has no such qualms.

TV or movies in the middle of the day serve as a much-needed ‘down’ time for him and the kids. And we both use it to get out of the door in the morning or when we need to cook dinner. It’s never sat well with me, but I’ve had to learn that parenting is about learning what battles are worth the fight.

Because there are so many to have in one day. Here are a few that we have on a daily basis, before we even get to screen time (and this is with the kids, not my husband):

  • Weet-Bix is a better option to ice cream
  • Pyjamas are not appropriate outdoor gear
  • It’s preferable for one to wipe ones own bottom after using the toilet
  • Soap is a necessary evil after using the toilet
  • Teeth should be cleaned every morning (and night)
  • Walking to day care is not a good option when the day care is 15 kilometres away
  • One must sit in a car seat and be strapped in before Mummy can drive the car

And that’s all before I get to work. I won’t bore with you with the rest of the day. You get the impression. So in balancing what’s good and bad for my kids, when I’m just so tired after having all those mini battles, I often give in.

I make small comments to my husband, about how it would be better not to have the TV on, but I don’t put my foot down or make a scene.

But next week, we’re going to be trying things differently, in a very public way.

And I’ve realised that the hardest bit is not going to be the kids, it’s going to be us, the parents.

In some ways, I’m just as attached to screens as my husband. If I have a spare moment, I have to fill it with something. I’ve no tolerance for boredom. I’m lured to that little red button on my FaceBook widget, telling me I have a comment or a like. I can’t resist updating my email, to see if there’s anything new I need to know.

Daniel often watches TV with his iPad out and his phone nearby. He thinks this is normal. I have a nagging suspicion that it’s not.

I’m not saying we need to completely shut the technology out of our lives. I see a big role for it in how our children grow and learn. I don’t have a problem with movies and TV shows that allow our kids (and us) to relax.

But I can’t shake that feeling that we all could do with a little less screen time.

And that’s what the Screen Free Challenge is all about.

So wish me luck. Or better still. Join me in the challenge, and we can help each other along the way.