How Much Screen Time Is Too Much? (For Moms)

Every parent has heard the debate: Do you allow screen time? How many hours per day do you allow? How can we cut down on screens and set appropriate limits?

But you might not have ever considered that this conversation shouldn’t just apply to your kids – but to yourself too! When it comes to technology, how much is too much?

We only have so many hours to spend with our kids. We only have so many hours to spend on ourselves. As mothers with young children underfoot, these often overlap. And I know I’m not the only mother out there who has gotten sucked into Instagram or Twitter only to look up and 3 hours have gone by.

A couple of years ago I read a book called Hands Free Mama and it really changed my life – temporarily. The gist of the book is about the importance of unplugging and spending more quality time with everyone around you – and with yourself. I quite honestly need to give it another read. It worked for a while… until it didn’t.

Life has gotten busy. I’ve gotten hooked back onto my devices again for work, school and even social media. So many nights I crawl into bed and think about all the things I *wish* I had done that day. The end of the summer and the end of the school year often turn out the same way. There just seem to be so many “shoulda woulda couldas”. And lately I’ve been re-realizing the need to put down my phone.

I’m always thinking I don’t have time – but what if I actually do? How many hours can I get back in my day if I just cut out this one area? Maybe I’d be able to pursue that hobby, read that book, make that healthy meal…

The truth is that being able to unplug from our phones and plug back into our real lives is a gift. But it’s a gift that we have to choose. And it’s taken me a long time to realize this one key thing: It’s not about being restricted or limited – it’s about being free.

Free to enjoy life unfolding in front of you without worrying about the millions of tiny little things on your to do list. (We all know it never ends, no matter how hard we try)

Free to focus on the needs of the moment without being distracted by a dozen new spam emails.

Free to look our kids in the eyes instead of looking at words on a screen.

Free to see the beauty in the everyday and not the filtered beauty on Instagram making us feel bad about pretty much everything.

Free to choose the peace of a slow life over the chaos of being wrapped up in what’s going on in the digital world on my phone – and these days we all know it’s not pretty.

Free to live in the real world instead of the digital.

So if (like me) you’ve discovered you might have a teeny tiny problem with phone addiction, how can you take steps to improve it?

I’ve pretty much tried it all. Setting app limits, changing my screen time password to my daughter’s name, attempting to schedule specific time periods to get online, trying to turn my phone upside down to resist the urge to look at it… none of these really worked.

But lately I’ve been handing my phone to my daughter and asking her to hide it for me while we spend some time together. The first time I tried this, seeing how quickly her eyes lit up as she scampered away shouting, “ok!” was eye-opening. I truly wanted to do better so I wouldn’t disappoint her. No phone timer, app limit, or internal motivation can produce those results.

Now she often asks me if she can take my phone away and hide it again. Ouch.

I wish I could say I was doing perfectly now after that, but life changes don’t often work like that. Rather than being one big choice that changes everything, progress and growth are most often reflected in hundreds of tiny little choices. The same way a series of habitual choices got me into this mess – I am hopeful they will get me out of it again.

Whatever it looks like for you, and whatever it ultimately looks like for me, every moment that we can reclaim back from the digital world is one we could potentially treasure forever. As I write this, my daughter and our dog have fallen asleep right next to me on the couch. Rather than spend the next few minutes on my phone scrolling Twitter, I plan to lay down with them, brush my daughter’s hair, rub her back, and try to savor this precious moment. Hopefully, after reading this today, you will do the same. <3

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