The Opportunity Cost of Screen Time

Let me preface this post by saying that I am not here to judge anyone's use of screen time with their kids, as I continuously grapple with how much screen time I think is reasonable for my own. But lately I have been thinking about screen time in terms of its opportunity cost; that is, what are the opportunities my children are foregoing when they are playing on the iPad or watching a DVD?

Now sometimes, admittedly, the opportunity cost of screen time is quite low, like when if it weren't for screen time, mom would be pulling out her hair and no one would be happy. But often it seems the opportunity cost of screen time could be quite high, like when it disrupts opportunities for the kids to overcome their own boredom and find imaginative forms of entertainment.

Tonight, for example, I was considering 30 minutes of screen time before bed. With a husband who travels out of town for work all week, a little screen time can help me tackle things like those dirty dishes, and stay in good spirits. It was such a beautiful night, though, that I thought I would see if we could find another pre-bedtime activity, and the green grass was calling. Here is an instance of where I think the opportunity cost of screen time would have been very high. Instead of a screen, the kids had 30 minutes of jumping, tagging, rock-digging, and all-around sibling fun.

I have no answers, no suggestions on suitable screen time, other than to say that in an effort to simplify our children's lives -- and our own -- we are trying to limit it for all of us, and trying to be more aware of what we might be missing out when we are tuning in.