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Parents, Time to Get Real About Your Own Screen Time

A mom realizes that she's the one that needs a screen time check

Published on: September 28, 2018

Mom and daughter on phone

When the new iPhones launched this fall, my 15-year-old son and I went online to read about the new updates. One feature that caught my eye was Screen Time, which is designed to let users know how they are using their time on their iPhone and iPad. 

“That’s going to interesting,” I said, “Definitely going to help with setting screen time limits.”

“Really?” he said. “You think it will help you to use your devices less?”

“No, I meant for you. I’m not the screen-ager, you are the one addicted to technology,” I said.

“Seriously, Mom? You are always on your phone or computer.”

“You are kidding, right?” I responded. “I’m not the one playing Madden mobile on the bus ride home. I don’t do my homework on the computer while checking ESPN scores and texting my friends.”

“No,” he said. “But you do work on your computer several hours a day. And you are the one watching 'Grey's Anatomy' while texting Grandma and scanning Facebook.”

I started to formulate a rebuttal, but then I stopped. 

Was he right? 

Yes, I am on my computer several hours a day. As a writer, it’s part of my job. And sometimes, while I’m doing my job, I take a break and check People.com or Twitter or do a little shopping on Amazon — sometimes simultaneously on a few devices. 

My screen consumption is kind of like my food consumption. I may not eat a lot all at once, but I do snack without realizing.

And what's the point of just standing at the grocery store if I could get to the next level of Candy Crush while waiting for the guy in front of me to load his cart? It’s productive, right?

Whenever I put on a few pounds, I ask myself, “Why am I gaining weight?” Immediately I want to point the blame at metabolism, aging, genetics or all three. I rationalize that I’m a healthy, portion-conscious eater so those are the only explanations that make sense.

However, when I decide to track what I'm eating for a few days, my food journal tells a different story. I graze a lot when I'm not even hungry. I’ll eat my son’s leftover toaster waffles, treat myself to a frozen yogurt with granola or grab a handful of M&Ms on the way to carpool.

In other words, if I’m honest with myself, I sometimes consume more calories than I realize. And this mindless consumption, not genetics, is what causes me to put on weight. 

My screen consumption is kind of like my food consumption.  I may not eat a lot all at once, but I do snack without realizing.

Yes, I can call out my son for all the hours in a row he spends on Xbox or watching memes on his phone, but if I added up all of my app scanning and web surfing in addition to the time I am actually doing work on my devices, it is probably adding up to on more screen time than I think. 

"I guess Screen Time will be a good tool for both of us," I said to my son. He agreed.

I'm not sure if he meant it or if he just wanted me to order us the new phones, but hopefully keeping track of how much time we do spend online will help us both to spend less time on our devices. 

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