I’m Setting a Bad “Screen Time” Example

How much is too much screen time for kids? Are you setting a bad example?So, I kind of have a weakness for Diet Coke. It’s one of those things I know isn’t that good for me the phosphoric acid for sure, the aspartame maybe — but that I have never been willing to give up entirely. I don’t suck the stuff down like I used to back in college, or when I worked at an office where the fridge was always stocked. I probably have the equivalent of three or four cans a week. Not a huge amount.

But once, not too long ago, while we were on a car trip somewhere and I was nursing a Diet Coke in the front seat as I like to do on long car rides in particular Clio piped up from behind us and said, “When I grow up, I’m going to drink lots of soda, like mommy!”


Since then, I’ve tried not to feed my habit in front of the girls as much. I mean, it’s not like Diet Coke is deadly poison. But I want to set a good example. That example being: if you’re going to do unhealthy things, do them in private, where nobody can see. Ha! (Fun fact: I’m actually drinking a Diet Coke in the privacy of my home office as I write this. I kid you not.)

But this post isn’t about Diet Coke. It’s about something else along the same lines that hit me like a ton of bricks just the other day: Both Alastair and I are constantly on our laptops. And it’s gotta be making an impression on our girls.

Now, in most cases we’re doing legitimate work. We’re both self-employed, we both work from home, and we both just have a lot of shit to do on the computer whether it’s writing, or answering emails or whatever. So when the girls are playing on their own (it actually happens these days!) or watching their allotted bit of TV for the day, we try to take advantage of that time — and that usually means getting on the computer.

But we also do our fair share of social media (which, granted, is partly work-related / promotional for both of us, but also definitely recreational) and watching Honey Badger videos and the like. In other words, sometimes we’re just messing around.

We occasionally let the girls do stuff on our computers, or (as pictured above) on our old PCs. They like  — I mean really like — funny cat videos on YouTube (long story). And we let them play educational games every once in a while.

But they don’t demand computer time yet.

It occurs to me, though, that we are not setting a very good example by instantly flipping open our MacBooks whenever we get a free minute.

There’s going to come a time, probably sooner than we think, when the girls will have their own computers or at least have a computer at their disposal. And I know we will not be happy if they become computer addicts. But the fact is, we are. And, as we children of the 80s all know, parents who use drugs have children who use drugs.

So, here I sit, tapping away at my laptop, Diet Coke by my side. But I’m thinking I should try to put myself on a bit of a screen time diet—get in the habit of reaching for a book (or my Kindle? ha) or a magazine or hey! a dust cloth or a sponge when my instinct is to reach for my Mac.

It’s going to be hard, because I always feel like I have a zillion things I need to be doing. But I also waste plenty of time online, and I could definitely cut down on that.

What about you? Do you think / worry about how your “screen time” behavior influences your kids?


DOUBLE TIME, my memoir of parenting twins and battling depression (among other things) is now available for pre-order!

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Article Posted 5 years Ago

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