Does Together Time = Screen Time?

Throughout these next few months we often have the opportunity to get together with family. Although many times we look forward to relaxing our day-to-day structure, we sometimes find that it leads us to wide open spaces when we don’t know exactly what to do. How does the family relax together when we are used to living such active lives? Families – and children especially – seem to have less tolerance for being “bored”.

Parents in our Hopkins Early Childhood / Family Education (ECFE) classes have been reflecting on their own most cherished childhood holiday memories. Most often these memories are filled with cousins or family playing all day long together. There were unstructured games and lots of fooling around. I often heard variations on the comment “We probably drove the adults crazy, because we were just playing so much and so hard.”

If you remember fondly back to long days of wide open games and play, know that your children would cherish the same sort of time together. We tend to jump to wanting to entertain, rather than waiting for our children to create something out of a slow moment in the day. However, our early fond memories would likely never have happened if we weren’t given the opportunity to sit together with nothing to do for awhile. Today we tend to focus on the easy entertainment that comes in the form of screens. As we can see in many situations the desire to have an activity, and the desire to be quickly entertained, has often allowed children access to lots of media, but it doesn’t always allow for the creative play they need.

There is a new project begun in Minnesota, an educational and supportive exploration into how screens are affecting our youngest children – those under five years old. The Screen Sense Project offers research, articles and feedback around the way we use screen time today. Take the time to check out their information. The group is certainly not against media, they are for the thoughtful process of mindful consumption of media. Take some time over these weeks, when things do tend to allow for more quiet time, to decide what meaningful consumption of media and screen time might mean for you and your family.

Another helpful website for considering our use of media is We will likely be using movies or apps to entertain here and there during these winter months. If we are conscious of what our own limits are, and can have a good sense of what is appropriate for our childrens’ ages, we will be able to comfortably enjoy the screen time we allow in our households. CommonSenseMedia provides information and reviews about current movies as well as old favorites, apps and video games. You can even find movies they recommend for the specific ages of your children.

It is hard for many people to imagine what it might be like to return to a time, even briefly, before we had ready access to screens. Think about your favorite memories of time spent together as a family when you were growing up. Talk about your memories with others in your family. See if you can find ways to create those same activities with your own children. Enjoy the time you have together, whether it is quiet and relaxed or just a bit boring. Too soon we will be back to our fast paced active worlds and the time you had together will be just a memory.


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