I was chatting with a parent at school pick-up the other day. She told me that she really enjoyed my presentation on ‘screen time for kids’. She felt as though she now understood the real issues. Then she said that she was feeling really guilty. She still allowed her kids to watch seven hours of DVDs on a recent car trip to Queensland. She explained that there was no way her kids would sit quietly in the car for more than 15min without a DVD to watch.
Now I must say that guilt is an awful emotion. I hope I wasn’t the reason for her negative feelings! I am not a militant on this issue. My kids are allowed to spend time on screens, it’s just that we monitor the time and ensure that it is limited. It’s true, however, that we do not have a DVD player in our car. With family interstate we still do long car trips. So how do we do it and stay sane? …..Audiobooks!
Audiobooks are fantastic! The perfect positive alternative to DVDs for several reasons.
First, your child will not be staring at a screen. All of the negative impact of doing this, including increased tiredness and poor posture are removed. Second, your children will be exposed to an adult reading to them! This increases their (and maybe your) vocabulary. Third, the kids will be looking around, hopefully out of the window, which is better for their eyes and for their general knowledge. And finally, and most importantly, listening to an audiobook (or someone reading to them) requires children to use their imagination. Watching a movie means that someone else has imagined everything for your child - we are the passive receiver of that vision. When we read, or are read to, we use our own imaginations to create the world. And your imagination is just like any other skill or ability. It needs to be trained and exercised regularly.
Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge”. Improving your kid's imagination by doing something they will enjoy is a win-win situation.
There are now many audiobooks available and they are often either read by the author themselves (e.g., David Walliams) or by a well-known actor (e.g., many of the Roald Dahl books are available read by Stephen Fry). Local libraries usually have audiobooks available either on CD or via an app. If you play them aloud rather than on headphones you can share the experience with your child and you might just strengthen your own imagination muscle at the same time.