Yep. That happened. Before the quarantine, those words had never left my lips. While I allow occasional screen time, I’ve never encouraged it. In fact, I’m usually the go-to for other moms to find out the latest and greatest screen time limiting app!
But the school closures and social distancing are showing us how important digital media can be.
When it was announced that students would be out of school for a month, they were able to return to school to collect their belongings. Besides their instruments, they had very little to take home because, in this digital age, textbooks reside online.
Luckily we have access to digital classrooms like Clever, Google Classroom and Canvas. Teachers are able to assign, grade and communicate with their students entirely online. Today, my daughter, Neena, uploaded a video as a means to check in with her class. She loved seeing the clips that her classmates submitted. It was sweet!
My son, Naveen’s, teacher filmed a Tik Tok video with her husband and kids and gave us all a good laugh.
My oldest son, Neal, woke up to a long list of assignments, including a term paper for gym class about the five components of physical fitness! Way to go Mrs. A!
So, while I’m grateful that my kids have access to online learning, there is an elephant in the room: the lack of social interaction. The silence of it is deafening. I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d say to my kids “Hey, why don’t you go on the Xbox”? But in this unprecedented time, I recognize and appreciate that it’s a means of “hanging out” with friends.
Kids are social. Socialization is critical, especially for teens and tweens. They need to be in their peer groups and don’t want to be stuck at home with their siblings (and mom) all day. It’s ironic that prior to the quarantine, we would discourage screen time to encourage socialization and now we’re encouraging screen time for the exact same result. Who could have imagined?
So, when I made that eye-bulging suggestion, encouraging screentime, my boys raced downstairs as if any hesitation might cause me to reconsider. You see, when they’re on the Xbox, they’re connected to their friends. They’re doing their social thing. It’s not my favorite scenario, but I’m secretly grateful for it right now.
My daughter Neena’s friend “A” invited her to a virtual book club. A’s mom is a teacher and had several copies of From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. They made a plan to read two chapters a day and then log in to a Zoom chat to discuss the book every day at noon. I don’t think she realized how much she missed her friends until she got chatting! I have a feeling it will become the best part of her day.
Our Boy Scout troop hosted a virtual meeting tonight on the app Discord. It went surprisingly well and they got a lot accomplished. And, Rachel’s boys are still able to do their weekly instrument lessons virtually via Skype and Google Hangouts. Being able to connect to these activities in this way offers some small semblance of normalcy in this far from normal time.
Rachel and I attempted to work via Zoom and Discord but defaulted to the old faithful: the telephone. We’re like a couple of teenagers from the nineties chatting for hours at a time! We’re grateful that we can continue to work from our respective homes but, like the kids, it’s no match for being able to interact face-to-face.
We check in regularly via FaceTime with our parents, in-laws, siblings and nephews to stay connected to family, but we’re starting to miss their hugs and kisses! Nevertheless, we’re grateful for our “screen time” together!
The trick in our household is allocating times for different kinds of screen time. My kids can’t go on their phones during our school hours (9-2:30), but they are able to socialize virtually in the afternoon. The evening, however, is dedicated to family time. We watch a movie or documentary or play a game. We just started Survivor Season One. There are 40 seasons, so we’ll see how far we get!
Screen time has become a bigger part of our life than I ever imagined it would be, but I’m thankful. I can’t fathom what this experience would be like without it! What does screen time look like in your household? What are your plans for screen time usage and management during the school shut-down? Also, how are your kids engaging with their friends? We’d love to hear how things are going. Please share your inspiration and struggles with us in the comments below.