In Defence of “Screen Time”

Can screens cause ADHD? Sedentary lifestyles?

There are those who say the use of TV and videogames could equate hyperactive or violent behaviour, or the opposite extreme with obesity. I’m just looking around my home and my husband, myself and my children, and I don’t see that. Far more indicative of how my day will go with my kids, is if I’m actively connected with them and respectful. That is when they relax and can be their wonderful selves. I have to ask myself constantly “How is this actually a problem?” and “Am I making a decision out of love or irrational fear?” and put myself in their shoes to help guide me to the best (for us) decision.


This is the most complex issue. Due to my first son’s sensitivities, I began looking into to Waldorf as a lifestyle option as many aspects appealed to me. I still think it’s wonderful. If I could have chosen my own personal education, I would had LOOOOOVED to attend a Waldorf school! Reading my son, versus trying to stick to a doctrine as if it’s a religion, Waldorf began to not fit my son and what he is about. I love Dr. Shefali’s quote, “When you parent it’s crucial you realize you aren’t raising a ‘mini me’ but a spirit throbbing with its own signature”.

At first I was concerned about my first born’s apparent obsession with character play (at three years old he was rarely “Julien”- preferring to be addressed as Peter Rabbit instead. Other times made up characters like “Juice the dog” or “Robot Slug”). Learning from Waldorf about the art of storytelling was a gift, and it brought so much joy to put on puppet shows with classes tales such as The Magic Porridge Pot! But to limit it there felt arbitrary. To add layers and dimensions through books and TV and computer felt as though we were helping Julien sink his teeth into a passion. Limiting the choices of books or shows that piqued his interest felt like judging him, or sending a message of disapproval.

When I feared TV and put limits on it, it felt like we went backwards with trust. I was initially worried about cutting out screen time because wouldn’t it be mean to take away something he derives so much joy from? And who’s to say he isn’t learning? What about character development, plots, choreography, etc? I was told by a parenting expert that it was totally fine to limit, I’m the mum, etc, etc. But my gut was saying it would be a trust breaker. And my gut was right.

When we reintroduced television, he of course latched on to it out of fear it would be taking away again or limited (seemingly arbitrary to him). After that hump I saw him become much more relaxed. We had to prove we wouldn’t snatch it away at a moments notice before he began turning it off himself, trusting that it wouldn’t be gone forever.

The other piece I question with regards to limits, is, how do you keep consistent with those limits? I’ve heard about using tokens (the kid gets a certain amount that they can cash in per day or week) but what about visiting friends? Or when the parent wants to have it on more? Or when it’s super cold out or a sick day, or like now as we approach winter?

I had a phone counseling session with Jan Hunt from The Natural Child Project five years ago, and asked her about the issue of screen time. What she said was, “My answer may surprise you. I actually think it’s fine, if it is a time of connection and not used as a tool of disconnection or in the context of rewards and punishments.” She wrote this article that I thoroughly enjoyed: Is I Love Lucy Educational? 
I felt so much more in touch with my instincts after our conversation.

I don’t want those parents who limit smartphone/video game/tablet/computer use or who don’t have a TV to feel judged, just as I don’t want to feel judged for watching TV and playing video games with my kids.

I don’t want those parents who limit smartphone/video game/tablet/computer use or who don’t have a TV to feel judged, just as I don’t want to feel judged for watching TV and playing video games with my kids. I don’t want a parent who puts Peppa Pig on for a moment of peace to feel inadequate. We are all conscientious parents truly doing our best to keep educated and connected and raise our children peacefully, and provide enriching lives in whatever ways we can.

One Last Thing

I actually really dislike the term “screen time”.

If an adult is using a television set, or a laptop computer, or a smartphone, and somebody asks them what they are doing they will say “watching the game” or “reading on Wikipedia” or “texting my friend”. They will never say “having screen time”. -Virginia Warren

Sandra Dodd has a wonderful index of explorations of the freedom of technology as a tool here:

Originally published HERE.

Brandie Hadfield has a no-template approach to life.  She helps parents navigate the early years of parenting, including sleep, nutrition and lifestyle.  Brandie is president of Attachment Parenting Canada, and a lifetime certified family health coach through the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute.  You can find more of her work on, and on Facebook and Instagram.  Email to learn more about her professional services.

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