Screentime – the iPad debate

OK, it’s been a good 6 months between blog posts and a lot has happened – 90% good. Sol is thriving in his learning. I don’t have any quantitative comparisons with other 6 year old boys on “how much” Sol is thriving but I do know this:

  • He asks when Ms Rachel is coming every day – Rachel is Sol’s homeschool tutor and an angel sent from heaven. I now have a daily visual of what an angel looks like.
  • He can sit and focus on ONE task for 20-30 mins. Granted that the average concentration span for an adult is 20mins, I think he might be killing it.
  • He can read and spell – the words are simple and the spelling is sometimes wrong but the understanding is strong.
  • With dyspraxia, it’s really hard to hold a pencil and write in a straight line – Sol is persistent and doesn’t give up. When he has to write about Lego, he will not stop until he has finished.
  • He understands basic addition – if I have 3 Power Rangers and I buy 2 more Power Rangers, how many are there? Sol says “You’re a damn lucky kid cos you’ve got the whole set! There are 5!” I actually asked him that cos I didn’t know myself.
  • He might sit up in his room for 30mins reading to himself on his bed. He’s not really reading the hard words but I know the idea of reading a story to himself shows me that he is developing a love for books, stories and words. That’s cool cos I adore the written word.
  • He’s obsessed with science and experiments. He asks a lot of questions around “How, What, Why, When?” – this shows a massive curiosity for the world around him.
  • He’s an amazing artist – this is the the coolest thing as I remember Sol’s sister at 6 years old being obsessed with dance. I knew that was going to be one of her gifts/talents and that she needed to have dance in her life. She’s still dancing. Sol will draw or paint for up to 2 hours a day. I kid you not. He will look at a picture and try to copy it over and over until it’s as good as he can get it. His effort and passion are what makes me so proud of him – not the outcome. These character qualities show that when he puts his mind to something, he will be successful. We know we need to get him an art teacher – on the “to do” list.

So what I have learnt from Sol over the past 6 months – he is a right brain, highly creative, intuitive, funny, loving soul. He is a gift to this earth. Having him home schooled is the best decision for right now. I am still exploring alternative options and I am so lucky to have an incredibly supportive network of parents who share information constantly to keep us informed about positive changes in Malaysia for kids with SEN.

Right – onto the topic – my experiment. Actually, I can’t own this solely as the idea was a joint decision between Sol’s dad and I. We had both been researching the effects of screen time on the growing brain. This was more so for our daughter, a teenager, who we felt was being negatively affected by what she was seeing on her phone. Without going into details, we made some positive changes for the teen, set new boundaries and proceeded to move on to the 6-year old.

We decided that we would take away iPads and access to iPads and limit TV time to one hour around dinner time. I know! You’re scared right?? I mean – who does that? It’s digital suicide for your child – to NOT know how to play Minecraft or navigate their way around Kids YouTube and “accidentally” run into “Slappy” and “Bendy”. Now if you have even heard of those characters, you need a slap around the head if your kids are watching that shite. In short – here is what you need to know on these characters you can find on Kids YouTube – the channel where you think you have been able to protect your kids from seeing what cannot be unseen.

“Parents need to know that Bendy and the Ink Machine is a creepy adventure game for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, and Nintendo Switch. Played from the first-person perspective, gamers explore a run-down cartoon studio that’s more like the creepiest place on Earth than the happiest. Using axes, machine guns, and pipes, players have to fight off ink monsters, though killing them doesn’t result in any blood or gore, just spilled ink. There are also some violent cutscenes, including one that shows someone being skewered with a sword, and another in which a character has an axe embedded in their head. Disturbing images include things jumping out at you, a character strapped to a torture device, and what resembles a Satanic ritualCommonSenseMedia.Org

Slappy is a character from the movie “Goosebumps” – he’s a talking dummy – that’s creepy. When Sol thought it might be great to dress up as Slappy for Halloween, I thought “Nope – that’s not happening” and decided it was a good time to wean him off the iPad.

So, how painful was it? I like to think of it like a break up. The longer you are in it, the longer it might take. So thinking that Sol had only just turned 6 years old, we were thinking it might take around 6 weeks to deal with

  • tantrums
  • boredom
  • listlessness
  • anxiety
  • non-stop asking for the iPad to wear us all down

The last point is the one I had to psyche myself up for cos you know how we all roll! I have stuff to do! I work full time and sometimes from home and I need to use a laptop and if I’m on my laptop and he’s not in school, what the heck is he going to do? The million dollar question! What does a 6-year old do when they can’t watch TV or their iPad? And what about when you go to a restaurant? If he doesn’t have an iPad, what is he going to do? How am I going to get any peace and quiet? And if he doesn’t whip out his iPad when he’s with other kids that have them, is he going to be a social pariah? I’ll answer ALL of these questions now.

  1. Sol moaned for a week, JUST 7 DAYS. We stocked up on loads of paper, pens, paint, crayons, colouring books, water balloons, water toys, playdates! We hid the iPad and said it was broken. As I type this, I cannot tell you where his iPad is in the house. It’s gone! Guess what happened – he played, and played, and played some more. He has boxes upon boxes of Lego and it’s like he never played with it before – he kept building stuff, and making stuff, and creating stuff. And then when he was done with legos, he went on to drawing. He did some homework independently! And then he went off to one of his playdates, or activities.
  2. The restaurant thing – we take toys and colouring, like when I was a kid. Actually, when I was a kid, we never went to restaurants because they were “treats” that happened once every 2 months if that. So back to the crazy Nukus – We talk! And we laugh! And we have fun! And we eat properly and we chew the food! Crazy right??? And looking around the restaurant while I’m seated with my family and see that we may possibly be one of “those” families who don’t let their kids have devices at the dinner table – I’m like “haha! I know something about your kids brain that you might not!” OK, that’s probably going a bit far and the fact that I’m writing this means I want you to know about it too. Sharing is caring.
  3. And playdates with other kids who are using iPads? Sol will sit down and want to check out what they are watching and then he will get up and run away to play with THEIR toys cos he knows he won’t have to share them if they are otherwise engaged – so smart!

So, the future? I know that as school progresses, one of the best tools we can offer Sol is the ability to type. His writing will always be a challenge (from other dypraxia blogs I follow) and being able to type will allow him to keep up with the school work and meet deadlines for assignments. But that’s NOT right now. Right now, he is the happiest, little dude. The iPad sent him to a dark place, like switching off the light of creativity inside of him. The light is back on and we are going to let that human light shine, and not the dull pulsating white light of an iPad screen.

If you need the science to help you make a well-informed decision – click on the link

The effects of Screentime on a Child’s Brain

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