As the working mom of two little ones, 4 and 6, I admit that I am guilty of getting some down time by letting the kids watch their iPads. Is it a crutch? ABSOLUTELY. Am I willing to give it up? ABSOLUTELY NOT. I have read how screens could be detrimental to young kids. I understand that I am being passive in my parenting when I allow them to veg out. I KNOW. There are plenty of parent-shaming blogs, vlogs, Facebook pages and websites that point out that allowing my kids any screen time at all makes me a villain of the modern age.
This is PRECISELY why I like Screen-Free Parenting (http://www.screenfreeparenting.com/). The approach of the website is to provide an insight as to how the founders of the site parent without screens, why they do it, and offer some advice on how anyone can reduce screen-time in their lives too WITHOUT BEING PREACHY. Isn’t that refreshing? The first thing you read when you click on “About” is: “Screen Free Parenting is a counter-culture blog designed to support you wherever you are on the screen spectrum. Screen-free, screen-limiters or screen-embracers all deserve research-based information to help them make the best tech-wise choices for their families.”
The brains and heart behind the blog are Philly-suburb residents, Dr. Screen-Free Mom and Screen-Free Dad. Mom has a Doctorate degree from the University of Miami in Counseling Psychology and has been teaching university students for the past five years, including courses in Infant and Child Development, Personality Disorders, Theories of Psychotherapy, Lifespan Development, and Introduction to Marriage and Family. Dad is a marketing professor and the former head of marketing and communications for a university. They are parents of two little ones, 3 and 6, so they have both book smarts and life smarts backing up what they write about.
All the articles under the “Tech-Wise Parenting Articles” section are written by Dr. Screen-Free Mom and Screen-Free Dad. They are meant to make the readers more “Tech-Wise” in what they let their kids consume via electronics. Dr. Screen-Free Mom, writer of most of the contributions, intertwines personal experiences with research-based observations and includes the links to the referenced scientific articles if you want to read them. She is essentially showing the readers how she parents screen-free while also providing the research behind why she’s doing it. Screen-Free Dad’s articles tend to be more life-experience and observation pieces so his writing style is more conversational than educational. They are very relatable on how he manages to parent screen-free while also being someone who embraced screens his whole life.
If reading experiential or scientific articles isn’t your thing, there are also sections that cut right to the chase on what you can do to decrease screen time in your own children’s lives. “The Screen-Free Activities” section immediately introduces you to The S.P.O.I.L. System, “which is a screen-free psychologically-based system for prioritizing those activities which have the largest positive impact on child development. The system guides you through the 5 most important activities you should engage in with your young child each day.
- Play (free-play)
They then spell out each category and suggest activities that promote that particular aspect of the system. It is a handy guide, to be sure.
My favorite section is their “1 Million Screen-Free Activities” page. They are on a mission “to provide a list of 1 million simple things to do with kids in place of screen-time. Each week we post easy screen-free activities for you to enjoy with your young kids. These are simple things we recently did with our kids and we share them with you to keep you thinking.” (As of this writing, they are up to #325.) What I like best is that while any Pinterest-savvy parent can find activities for kids, these are both culled in one place as well as vetted as activities they really took part in. The fact that they are in our neck of the woods makes me look forward to seasonal-appropriate activities to try out. While I appreciate the suggestion to “Have a back-yard campout!” it’s not particularly helpful for suburban Philly in January. I can’t wait to see the warm weather activities they come up with.
Their “Resources” page is a list of links, books, toys and other products to help parents on their journey to become less screen-dependent. There is also a “Parenting Forum” page where community members can interact with each other and a “Speaking” page that is used for following or booking speaking engagements. The “Newsletter” page is the go-to for signing up for their bi-weekly newsletter. A little heads-up: There is a pop-up request to sign up for the newsletter that will appear on any page you are reading, but should only appear once a session. If it happens more often than that, check your settings and make sure your cookies are enabled. Boom! You have just become more “Tech-Wise”. See how I did that?
Screenfreeparenting.com is an excellent resource for those of us who are looking to reduce, limit, or even eliminate screens from our children’s daily lives. It’s a great reminder that there is a whole world that is new to kids and we, as parents, have the means (and frankly, the responsibility) to do our best to help them experience it out from behind a screen.