Every day, my children demand "scream time," which is toddler speak for "screen time." I only recently realized my 4-year-old began to think screen time was a birth right instead of a privilege after explaining screen-time limits. If she hasn't had any screens by mid-afternoon, she would complain, "I haven't had my scream time today and I need it!"
This wasn't how I planned to parent. Like a growing cohort
of millennials raised on screens, I believed that I ought to protect my kids
from the onslaught of the Internet. I envisioned a home filled with
Montessori-esque wooden toys, tents and nothing but unfettered imagination. And
it worked for a while, until my daughter turned 3.
Cartoons were at first a rare
treat only indulged in when someone was sick. Then, when her little brother was born, cartoons became the crutch I needed to take a shower, just drink a cup of coffee or not go insane.
Now, my daughter is a whiz at computers; she already handles the mouse
and touchpad better than her grandma. She learned her ABCs through the Fisher
Price online games and is quickly mastering reading through a game called "Teach
Your Monster to Read." My 2-year-old thinks everything is a touch screen, and
can handle the iPad even better than his sister.
You should hear me try to explain why the iPad can't access the Internet in the car. (My toddlers) just don't believe that it wouldn't be everywhere or ask why I'm too cheap to let them have a data plan.
My kids also have a predilection for YouTube videos; their
favorites are the Skylander Family, Miss Booksy, Miss Crafty Carol, and
anything involving a surprise egg. I have no idea who these people are and I
had to Google them just now. I can't believe I already feel so woefully
out of touch.
According to who you ask, my kids are Generation Z, which is
defined as children born in the late 1990s to the 2010s, or from the early 2000s to
around 2025. They are the real digital natives, born with a touchscreen in
their hands and WiFi in the air. To them the Internet is just as common as oxygen.
You should hear me try to explain why the iPad can't access the Internet in the
car. They just don't believe that it wouldn't be everywhere or ask why I'm too
cheap to let them have a data plan.
And honestly, I don't know how to parent them through this.
While my children learn their alphabet on the computer, I'm bombarded with
messages and articles saying that I'm ruining them with screen time. When together, we
explore the ancient pyramids or find a common love of "Joseph and the
Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" through YouTube videos, but the next click reminds
me that I'm making them obese and lazy.
While I had my first blog at 19, I am beginning to feel very
unequipped to handle the technology that is being thrust at my kids at such a
rapid rate. Should they have YouTube channels? Is screen time a crutch or are
they actually learning? When I impose limits am I actually limiting the
potential for engagement or am I being a good parent?
The answers to these questions aren't so obvious when you
consider that my kids have no problem playing for hours with blocks, building an
entire city out of tents, and have healthy body weights and a pretty solid love
While the line to researchers on technology use and children
may be clear, the realities of it are a lot more fluid when it comes to the
Generation we are parenting. The only thing that is readily apparent to me is
that Generation Z already knows a lot more than we do.