Why It's Important For US Parents to Monitor Screen Time

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Written by Sarah Newman

Have you ever made fudge or any type of candy?  There comes a point in the baking process where you have to temper it. Tempering the fudge means to bring to a proper, suitable or desirable state. Another meaning for the word temper is to moderate: to keep the chocolate within reasonable temperature limits so it does not burn, but warm enough to become fudge-y and delicious.  It has to be just right. From my experience, it is easy to burn fudge.

The words that stick out to me in this definition of the word temper are to bring to a proper or suitable state and to moderate. So I ponder this beyond fudge. I mean, fudge is delicious but maybe it can even teach us something about life!  As I ponder, I wonder what in my life do I need to moderate? Or to bring to a proper state that may be in excess or that may be at a tipping point?

I let my thoughts flow about a few things, then this came to mind: Are my kids competing with screens for my attention?  A far drift from fudge.

We live in a day and age where parents can work from home at any time of day, and by working I mean using a phone or computer to communicate with others and put thoughts on paper.  I work from home. I often find myself in a state of throwing a load of laundry in while on the phone with a customer. Or prepping dinner at 2 in the afternoon because I have the time to prep it and don’t want to be rushed at 5 when everyone is starving.  It’s a great convenience. But sometimes the convenience can come at a cost.

Like when my kids are home.

Working from home makes it hard to turn work off. I can be in the middle of making dinner and remember that I forgot to send an email or text to a customer, and pull up my computer right then and there.  My kids might be sitting there at the kitchen island doing their homework and trying to have a conversation with me. Non-verbal communication is just as important as verbal communication. When in a conversation with someone, people interpret 55% of your body language, 38% your tone of voice, and 7% of the words you use.  If my kid is trying to talk to me and tell me something of importance, what is my body language saying when I’m looking at a screen instead of looking him in the eye? I often find myself “listening” by nodding my head and trying to respond with general words like “oh really” and “wow!” But my kids aren’t stupid! And if I think that they are, I’m the one that’s going to pay for it in 10 years when they have their own phones!

I keep thinking: it goes beyond working. We as parents with phones can receive a text or email at any time of the day. Most of my texts come at the 5:00pm hour. For me, it is so difficult to not to immediately respond. I feel like if someone is reaching out to me, I need to continue the conversation at that moment. Do you have that problem? Or am I the only one?

So back to fudge. When it is tempered to the correct temperature, it is SO good! It’s one of my favorites. It’s my favorite when it is at the proper or suitable state. If the temperature goes in excess, it’s ruined. I love my kids too, even more than fudge. I realize that my kids are impressionable, and my actions speak louder than words. If I’m in excess of something, what does that say to them? I have to model moderate screen time to them, even when work comes into play or people are reaching out to converse. The last thing I want is in 20 years, when we are sitting around a dinner table talking about when they were younger, for them to say, “I always felt like I was competing for your attention with your phone.” Ouch!

So, like the baker who pays close attention to the heat and consistency of fudge, I too commit to paying close attention to my kids, taking care not to turn up the heat on my screen time.

Seems like a little tempering my actions can prevent that conversation in years to come.


TemperanceSteven Markel