Screen time; have you found a balance?

Recently a controversial cartoon by Michael Leunig was published in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. It depicted a mother so fixated on Instagram that she failed to see her baby had fallen out of its pram. This depiction of modern motherhood sparked outrage online as it unkindly suggested that the mother loved her phone more than her baby. Understandably, this assessment of mothers causes hurt, as motherhood is so demanding, especially in the early years when “a little me time” is a rare occurrence, and being home with small children can at times feel isolating. Being able to connect on-line can be a blessing, a lifeline and a window into the outside world for mothers who’ve spent their entire day talking to a three year old or getting a baby to sleep. It can be a source of inspiration and encouragement to any Mum needing some new ideas…and let’s face it, there’s a bit of mundane housekeeping that needs to happen on-line too.

Regardless of how we initially respond to such a portrayal of mothers (and surely fathers should be included), it is always helpful to temper our outrage with a little self reflection. Is our interest in the on-line world becoming more time consuming than we would like to admit? Am I present with my kids when they need me to be? Am I looking for self-worth and validation from what I see and do on-line? Am I modelling to my kids healthy screen habits?  Do I have a right to expect them to do one thing if I’m doing another? 

Fast forward the image of a mother out walking with her baby by 13 years, and the picture may look very different; a teenager totally absorbed with their phone and a Mum who’s been left out. She’s wondering whether her child will notice her again, thinking to herself, “They love their phone more than me”. I think my teens would argue that that assessment of things is equally untrue and unfair. While it appears that teenagers today are addicted to technology, and as parents we may be worried about the effects this will have on our kids mental, emotional and social well-being. The truth is, they too are using screens to connect with their peers and socialise, create things and play, investigate and learn, and yes…a whole heap of binge watching. 

Setting aside public perception, (for it never does anyone any good to be motivated by the opinion of others) what is important, is to decide as a couple and as a family what you feel is appropriate, realistic and healthy for you and your family regarding screen use. While having balance is the ideal, it doesn’t always happen. That’s okay. However, being mindful of your habits and being accountable to each other is a good step towards balance.