I’ve Lost Control Over My Kids’ Screen Time

I’ve Lost Control Over My Kids’ Screen Time

Pre-corona, screen time wasn’t even an issue for us Weisbergs. My kids left for school in the early AM, came home mid-PM, leaving precious few hours to play, eat, and fight until their pre-bedtime video time followed by (yahoo!) bedtime.
But now, under lockdown, screen time is THE issue for us Weisbergs.
From the moment I wake up until I go to sleep at night, I’m in a constant battle against screen time. And the screens are winning, hands down!
A few days ago I got an Email from my son’s school that Rabbi Yoni Lavi would be leading a zoom conference with us parents about “The Parenting Challenge of the Corona Era.” I understood from the Email that Rabbi Yoni would be talking about the evils of screentime. So instead of marking it down in my calendar like a good Eema, I davka scheduled something else at the time of the conference!
It’s bad enough, I thought, that I’m drowning in kids and homework and zooms. Why add disempowering guilt over my kids’ out-of-control screen time into the mix?
But when I vented to one of my grown-up daughters, she suggested that maybe the conference wouldn’t be disempowering at all. In fact, maybe it would be extremely empowering!
So I cancelled what I’d scheduled. And yesterday evening I listened to the zoom conference while I sorted a mountain of post-Succot laundry.
And Rabbi Yoni reminded me why too much screen time isn’t good for kids. And why this is definitely a battle worth fighting. And I decided as a first step I’m going to set up, as Rabbi Yoni suggested, “Screen-Free Time.”
When I announced this new initiative, no screens between (I decided) 3-6 PM, one child turned pink-faced indignant:”But then WHAT WILL I DO??!”
One child cried when I tore the computer from her clutches at 3 PM: “But the movie ends in only 12 minutes!!”). She’s been sulking ever since.
It is now 4:17, which means we are a full hour and seventeen minutes into the Weisberg screen-freeze. I pray I (and my kids) are going to win this round, not the screens! Wish me luck!

16 comments

  1. Go Mommy go!

  2. You got this chana Jenny!

  3. Esti Graham

    Chana the awesome Jewish Mom,
    You have hit the nail on the head. HUGE issue and we had given our kids a certain number of hours on screens and explained they are to use any time outside required class zoom time for homework first. It is a very tough battle!! And there are multiple issues supervising as well. Truly a nisayon!

  4. Lauren Berlin

    This is a very good idea

  5. Mina Gordon

    Can I join your challenge? I would probably be a better wife, person, and Jew if I had a “no screen time” in my day.
    Imagine what a difference it would make if I would grab a Tehilim instead of a device!
    Can I really do it??? Maybe….

    • rabbi yoni lavi said that this idea of screen-free time was created by a group of mothers who call themselves SHAS, standing for שפיות סלולרית meaning cellular sanity!

  6. Excellent idea!!! Thank you for sharing

  7. Yocheved Shull

    I’m crying along with you! I think my kids schools and teachers are just as distraught! Noone would have dreamed in a million years we would have to bring so many screens and devices into our homes and lives. I took my kids to the forest and they still asked for my phone to take pictures!
    BH they are able to learn and BezH mashiach will come soon and put the screens back in their places! I also want to adopt that screen free time idea as well. Thanks Chana Jenny.

  8. I don’t know what your kids do during their screentime but I wouldn’t be so hard on yourself about it. In lockdown screens provide benefits too and can beat sitting isolated at home. My kids and I are learning Hebrew through YouTube songs and programs and watching shiurim on screens for example or zooming family members who they can’t see at all otherwise. It’s invaluable for us actually. If banning doesn’t work, what about improving content? And watching with them, to discuss it later? (so it also counts as family time and can bring you closer).

    • that’s an interesting idea. I tend to use screens as as babysitter so I can get some time on my own

  9. With many children home all day some parents may find that they have to choose between screen time or scream time. Any suggestions how to minimise both at the same time
    Maybe the solution is to replace screen time with attention time! Now is the time to invest in your relationship with your children.

  10. Chavi Berger

    How about asking the local municipality to come up with a special treat that can be obtained only during pre-ordained screen-free times, or pre-ordered with screen-clean coins they “earn,” to spend at local stores or ice cream parlors? Let’s have Jerusalem screen-clean between 3 and 6 pm for all kids! The mayor is trying hard to help kids in these times, and there’s a budget as his initiatives have shown.

  11. I guess what I also wanted to say was that I think it’s a great idea what you are doing. Having said that, it doesn’t sound like your kids really have such a massive issue as it sounds from what you say. If they don’t normally use screens they know how to live that way. Screentime is a massive issue when anyone used them inappropriately. But I find it ironic that we discuss this on our screens here, based on a shiur you heard through a screen and found out about in an email (so saw while using a screen). So no wonder kids also want to use screens! And how much of a choice is it if it’s the only way to see their grandparents? (As it is for my kids right now). Or go to school? In the end of the day they will do what we do and also with kids like yours who know how to be without normally I think it’s not as bad. Screens are here to stay after all and I would argue better to use them for good if you end up using anyway. I’m more worried about kids not being used to also doing other things like playing with friends and going out to nature or doing mitzvot like helping others. Maybe a solution is to increase those more as we are able? But in the end they will do what we do so if we use screens (even for good) they also will. And if it’s for Torah learning and inspiration or mitzvot or education I’m very happy they do. (Even if it’s to also give mum some alone time!).

    • how funny, this point hadn’t even occurred to me:) “But I find it ironic that we discuss this on our screens here, based on a shiur you heard through a screen and found out about in an email (so saw while using a screen)”

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