Too much screen time? Take a snow walk.

January 19th, 2018

We’ve had a week of snow days here in Middle Tennessee, which means that kids have been home from school. Although my children love the snow, they don’t like the cold. Unlike me, born and raised in the North, my kids rarely venture out to explore the Winter Wonderland. Instead, they stay cozy on the couch tethered to a device, usually more than one at a time. My rule of two hours of screen time a day disappears when the temperature is below freezing. I want my kids to have fun during their unexpected holiday.

Like many parents, I have a love-hate relationship with the screens my kids use. I want them to be prepared for the workplace, which requires being adept at online research, word processing, global communication and any number of additional computer applications. However, I also want them to experience the real world around us. That’s why we took a snow walk.

First, I must explain that snow walks are a family tradition. My kids remember me bundling them up when they were very little so we could make a trek around the neighborhood in the newly fallen snow. We here in the South must take advantage of every frozen moment. 

Second, here are the rules. 

  1. Snow walks must be taken at night. It’s just more beautiful, especially in our urban neighborhood. The snow magically makes everything quiet and clean.
  2. Wear shoes that enable sliding on the ice. Here in the South we get “black ice”. It looks like the road, but it is actually ice. This is great for pretending to be a speed skater.
  3. Take it slow. Time does not exist on a snow walk. Enjoy being outside together.

The other night as we walked, the kids questioned how long we’d be. I told them we would only walk a few blocks. When we made the turn to go back to the house, they started to complain: “I’m cold. Why do we have to do this? This is stupid!” Well, I lost it. “You can go back to the house," I said, "but I’m taking a walk. Snow doesn’t come very often in Nashville, so I’m going to enjoy it.” 

I walked around the block, wavering between huffy prayers and utter thankfulness. When I returned to the house, we snuggled on the couch and watched a movie.

I confess: I live in the tension between a great appreciation for technology and an utter loathing of our reliance on it. Meanwhile, my kids seem to accept devices without any internal struggle. It’s just part of the way they learn and experience their world. As my 12-year-old said to me the other day, “Mom, playing PS4 is how I connect with my friends. If it wasn’t for that, I’d be stuck hanging with you and sissy all day. I love you two, but I need some friends.”

But isn’t our job as parents, teachers and youth leaders to help our kids see what they can’t see? Although at times I’m battle weary, I will continue the good fight, reminding my kids that there is a great, big world out there just waiting to be explored.

Tips for managing screen time with kids:

  1. Set a time limit. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers a screen time calculator.
  2. Review all games, shows and sites. Talk with kids about the content and how it aligns with your family’s values.
  3. Schedule off-line activities.  From snow walks in winter to bike riding in summer, help kids unplug and get active.
  4. Challenge them to create.  Kids can do homework online, but they can also publish their own books, write their own games, or produce their own movies.

Learn more about the Love In A Big World curriculum here.

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