My mum friends have all called me strict because my kids don’t have screens. Of any kind. We don’t do tablets or smartphones or streaming anything. If my kids want to watch something, it’s either a movie we got from the library or PBS Kids. Why? Because my husband and I had analog childhoods and we believe that our kids should too. Turns out more and more parents are wondering how exactly people like us do it.
The New York Times recently reported on an economy you may not have heard of called screen-free parenting coaching. The aim is for professionals to go into schools, places of worship, homes, and anywhere else families hang out in order to train parents on how to not rely on screens to get through the daily struggle of raising small people.
If you’re thinking, “that’s stupid” then consider this, in 2018, CBS News reported that the average American kid between the ages of 8 and 18 spends more than seven hours looking at screens each day. What’s more, CBS reported, that there “is mounting evidence that it is associated with obesity.”
So, we know that too much screen time isn’t a good thing but for some parents, the use of screens has turned into a parenting crutch in order to get basic tasks completed like grocery shopping or changing the oil in your car with kids in tow. Learning how to be patient enough to get through a toddler meltdown or how to pass time just playing is deeply mystifying to some parents. And that’s where screen-free coaches come in.
Parenting screen-free coaches are giving pretty basic advice that centers around the concept of being fully present. One coach tells the NYTimes reporter to imagine giving a cat a cellphone and watch what happens, “They don’t care. They’re fully present. They’re living. That’s a great role model.”
Getting outside with your kids and playing an old-fashioned game of tag to get your body moving is a fabulous way to pass some time as a family. For quiet time, try reading stories out loud or playing 20 questions. Look up old fashioned party games, card games, how to tell a campfire story…anything to engage with your kids in a super fun way. These are a few of the tricks that fancy and pricey coaches will tell you.
The truth is that parenting is super hard no matter what tact you use to raise your kids. Screens have a place, for sure, but so does going screen-free and neither is going to be the magic ticket to easy parenting.