In praise of screen time

It’s the silence I like best, I think.

My children are often lovely, funny, helpful, kind, and generally delightful. And equally often… not those things. They can fidget for England and they really, really love the sound of their own voices. Our lives are conducted with a soundtrack of chatter (I once heard it described as ‘verbal scribble’, which is exactly right) that drives me to distraction.

Enter the Kindle.

Educational kindle apps

Our interest in getting Kindles started as an educational idea: the school used the Mathletics website and app for maths homework, and we wanted the girls to be able to do it on their own machines rather that mine or Pete’s precious MacBooks which are vital for our work and would almost certainly not cope well with an orange squash spillage. (Mathletics, by the way, is awful: the app has limited functionality and the website often crashes, causing much frustration all round. School now seem to have given up on it too. DoodleMaths is much better.) Having researched tablets, we found that the combination of a Black Friday deal and Tesco Clubcard points meant that they were as close to free as they were going to get. So we bought them as Christmas presents, loaded them up with content, and had the quietest Christmas yet. Success!

Gus on the Go

When the girls are plugged in to their Kindles they are quiet, still, absorbed. They listen to stories. They watch the videos we’ve installed (and we don’t have to be subjected to Frozen on the TV). Joanna reads. (We’re still working on that with Charlotte.) There are games and apps of the ‘education in disguise’ variety, such as ‘Gus on the Go‘, which features an owl who is teaching them French and Russian (naturally) and a bit of surreptitious maths in various shopping games. In short, it is a Good Thing, and because the parental controls are highly customisable, it is locked down to what is safe and appropriate for our children: no internet, no camera, no shopping facility (yikes, the idea). We vet it all and they’re happy.

Fire for Kids Unlimited

We tried a ‘Fire for Kids Unlimited‘ subscription for a few months. That filters the content by age and allows the children access to a huge library of videos, books and games for £5 a month (£8 if you don’t have Amazon Prime – these prices are for up to four children, and a cheaper version for one child is available). We filtered out a few unhelpful things by keyword, but Joanna still came across something she found a bit scary, so we cancelled the subscription and now add everything on manually. I check everything and add something new every month or two.

At the moment (as I mentioned recently) they are very taken with the new additions of Gangsta Granny (thanks to a tip-off from Joanna’s teacher that this will be her topic next term) and Madagasgar (a long-term favourite). They’re quite happy watching both over and over again, so the investment (£1.89 and £6.99 respectively) lasts several weeks. Heck, Charlotte is still watching blimmin’ Frozen at least once a week.

Non-screen time

I don’t want to give the impression that our children do nothing but stare at a screen. That’s not the case at all. They love making dens in the garden, climbing trees, drawing and colouring, and are in a swimming lesson as I write this. So I feel no guilt about balancing all the activity and noise with an hour or two of screen time in the afternoon (or, in the holidays, a bit more than that) so I have a bit of peace in the midst of the maelstrom because… self-care klaxon my sanity is important too.

Screen time rules

Our rules aren’t quite as rigid as the picture below but there are sometimes conditions of screen time and it tends to be limited by battery life (for I am the keeper of the chargers, bwah-ha-ha). It works.

Screen time rules: source unknown

tl;dr (short version)

So, in summary, once you’ve got the devices in lockdown from a security perspective, and provided the nippers run about every now and then (which really isn’t a problem for any of the adopted children I know), then screen time is educational and entertaining for them and sanity-saving for the adults and so, as far as I can see, it has no down side.

Even the customer service is great. I needed to contact Amazon about an issue with one of them recently and we were sent a replacement with no hassle within 24 hours. I was impressed. We certainly wouldn’t be without them now, and… I liked theirs so much I bought myself one too.


A note about links

This isn’t a sponsored post – no money has changed hands – I just like Kindles. That said, I do use affiliate links. So if you click through and buy something (say, a Kindle Fire or a childproof case) I get a very tiny amount of cash. Just so we’re all clear.


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