Every day after school, my daughters take off their shoes, change their clothes, wash their hands, get a snack, then do their homework. When they've done all these things, then they've earned their free time, which can entail everything from watching television, reading a book, playing with their toys, or playing video games, either on an iPad or their XBox. Once they have their free time, I don't tell them specifically what they should do with it. Even if they only want to play on their devices until I call them down for dinner, I don't see a problem with that. While other parents might have an issue with giving their kids too much screen time, I don't. In fact, I encourage my daughters' screen time, because my girls can learn skills playing video games that they can't learn anywhere else.
When I was growing up, I was a gamer. My older brother and I had a next-door neighbor who would come over after school with his Nintendo, and we'd all play Super Mario Bros. together. A few years later, our mother bought us a Sega Genesis and after finishing my homework, I would play Sonic the Hedgehog until almost bedtime. My parents didn't limit my screen time, but I spent plenty of time doing things other than playing video games. I frequently went outside to play, wrote, or drew. My gaming didn't interfere with my ability to engage with the real world at all.
Screen time is a win-win, both for them and for me: I can get things done, and they can bond while keeping themselves entertained.
For years, however, I've heard about studies saying we should limit our children's screen time, with experts arguing that too much screen time can inhibit brain development and lead to children getting poor grades. Too much screen time has been linked to behavioral problems, obesity, and sleeping problems. After reading these studies, I started to limit my children's screen time. But after a while, I gave up, simply because I didn't see much harm in it.
My oldest daughter Anneka first started playing on her dad's iPad when she was 5. There were games she would play on her LeapPad learning system, which is like an iPad specifically for young children. Most of the games are problem-solving, math, or reading games. At the time, I only let her play for maybe 30 minutes a day after school, or only on the weekends. But as she got older, she made friends who were into Minecraft, a game that encourages creativity and problem-solving.
Once Anneka was older and her sisters wanted to play Minecraft with her, they learned how to play in the same "world" in the game, so they could collaborate together. I think it's been a bonding experience for the three of them, and they all enjoy telling me about it after dinner.
I don't limit my daughters' screen time because most of the time, they limit themselves.
My daughters are now 10 and 8, and I don't think having unlimited access to screen time has had much of an effect on them. If they are having fun and learning and playing quietly together, it's actually a win-win, both for them and for me: I can get things done, and they're bonding while keeping themselves entertained.
I don't limit my daughters' screen time because most of the time, they limit themselves. After all, they're kids: If they get bored, they'll get up and do something else. I don't need to discipline them often, because they get near-perfect grades and win academic awards on a regular basis. If they can keep their grades up and continue to stay out of trouble, I see no reason to take their game away from them.
I'm not the only parent who doesn't limit their kids' screen time. When I ask my friends how long they let their children play on their iPads, for instance, some said they just leave it up to their children. It's hard to say whether or not it's good for your children to constantly be in front of a screen, but I think parents know their children best, so it's up to them to decide what's good for them.
I think the most important thing is allowing my children to make decisions for themselves, albeit with the proper guidance. If they choose to play Minecraft for a long time, then they lose the opportunity to do something else that's fun, which teaches them how to manage their own time. In general, I try to give my kids a lot of choices, so they can learn the value of personal responsibility.
My kids are surrounded by technology 24/7. When they are adults, a good portion of their lives will be spent in front of screens, regardless of what career path they choose, so it's important for them to know how to use technology. As long as they continue to understand that it's important to do a wide range of fun, educational activities, I don't see a reason to limit their screen time right now.