What thinking adult has not worried about kids getting too much screen time?
I have been known to wrest an iPad from my 5-year-old grandson and park it on top of the refrigerator. I have said "No!" to "Just five more minutes?" And I have felt deep guilt when I've said "Yes!" because I wanted five more minutes of peace.
With all this sanctimony in the air, I was appalled recently to discover a message on my iPhone that I had used 4 hours and 55 minutes of screen time that day.
"Impossible!" I said. Followed quickly by "Who's counting?"
Apple, it turns out. Somehow with the latest operating system, I've fallen heir to the new Screen Time app. I'd heard about this for kids and shouted "Hallelujah!" I had no idea it applied to adults.
Now it's lurking in the background, stalking me like a strict parent tapping his watch, tallying my phone life into neat categories -- Productivity, Social Media and Reading & Reference -- and even keeping track of how often I pick up my phone and for what.
I must admit that my first thought -- that most of my 4 hours and 55 minutes was spent in Reading & Reference -- was a little off. I actually spent more time in Social Media, but that includes messaging, which to me is not much different from and usually more effective than emailing, which is counted in the more respectable-sounding category of Productivity.
"The system is obviously flawed," I immediately concluded, though I must admit it bothers me that I'd picked up my phone 254 times that week. This statistic set me off into a harsh self-inquiry into how much I might have learned if I'd instead spent nearly five hours that day reading a (nonelectronic) book and shutting everything off.
Still, I've passed on total shutdown, though some time-management experts recommend using the app's Downtime feature to create productivity blocks in the morning or after lunch.
In the spirit of starting small, I have instead activated Downtime during the hours I normally sleep. That way, if I wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, I will not be tempted to check my messages from sleepless friends and West Coast children. That should eliminate at least seven pickups a week.
After all, I like to think I'm nowhere near as bad as the "average adult," who reportedly uses 10 to 11 hours of screen time per day. Even counting all screens -- laptop, tablet, TV -- I ask myself, "Am I really spending five more hours outside my phone?" And I answer, "Only for research," which would include watching "Grace and Frankie" or taking a peek at cable news.
Still, I applaud the features that allow parents to monitor their children's usage by making screen time available only during specified hours. Children, after all, should be out running, playing, whooping, hollering, getting into fights, making up, crafting slime with glue and Borax, and conducting science experiments that involve food coloring and vegetable oil.
So certainly activate the Downtime feature for them as long as possible -- with one exception: when they are visiting their grandparents.
Then, I think my on-and-off-the-refrigerator system works just fine.
Balancing Act author Pat Snyder is a northwest Columbus resident and life-balance speaker and coach. Find her at PatSnyderOnline.com.