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My Kids Benefit From Screen Time in a Way That Other Kids Don’t

As a former screen-time worrier, it took a long time for me to be open to the fact that Minecraft was actually helping my sons calm down.

Brothers laying on a bed watching a laptop.
Photo: @graychelyn via Twenty20

Today’s heat index in Baton Rouge, Louisiana is a muggy 107 degrees. A scroll through Instagram shows my friends in cooler parts of the country, like the Pacific Northwest, or even Tennessee enjoying fun activities like camping and outdoor festivals while I sit in an air-conditioned house with my three children.

Did I mention that two of them have ADHD? They do. Lots of energy.

Yes, we have access to indoor trampoline parks, pools, water parks, and museums, but getting there still requires dealing with the oppressive heat. And as much as it pains me to admit this, we are all sort of sick of our local pool.

So what’s the solution? For us, it’s technology.

But it hasn’t always been.

I spent a solid decade of motherhood as a screen-time tracker and worrier; I didn’t know how to navigate parenting digital children. It’s so far outside of my comfort zone, and yet it permeates everything we do.

There is a huge gap between my kids and I that is separated by the internet. Life is just different now; nothing fits into a neat little box. It’s a constantly shifting gray area.

When I ended up with kids with neuro-atypical brains — kids who not only benefit from technology but seem to thrive with it — I could practically hear my mother’s voice telling me that the reason they have these (likely hereditary) issues is because they watch too much television or play too much Minecraft. After all, technology is the downfall of society, right?

I’m not so sure.

Growing up, I did not have cable television until I was in high school. If I wanted to watch Nickelodeon, I had to do it at my grandma’s house. My first experience with email was in college. I was raised in an extremely conservative religion that deemed almost everything dangerous. “Be in the world, not of it,” was basically our mantra. If something is of “the world,” that means it was secular — a thing to be wary of.

Meanwhile, my kids’ entertainment options include an endless stream of videos and electronic games. Thanks to their gadget-obsessed dad, we have Google Home everything in every room of the house. Their entire lives are synced and stored in a cloud.

Although I’m no longer a part of the religion of my youth, my sheltered upbringing still directly clashes with the screen- and media-saturated world my kids are growing up in. If asked to explain my qualms further, I’ll merely direct your attention to YouTube, which I’m still having trouble seeing as anything other than a wild amount of unfiltered, poorly edited nonsense.

I hate it.

My kids love it.

More than that, they seem to need it. Two of my children are diagnosed with ADHD/ADD and Autism Spectrum Disorder. My sons spend all day at school holding it together. Paying attention takes a gargantuan effort, so by the time they get home, they need to check out. For them, “checking out” mentally is best done in front of the TV or a video game.

It took a long time for me to be open to the fact that Minecraft was actually helping my sons calm down.

After years of stressing over screen time and wondering if stealing minutes in front of “Teen Titans Go” was ruining my son’s brains, I simply lost the will to keep worrying and tracking and threatening and finally just leaned in.

I had to get professional help to fully grasp how my kid’s brains process information differently, but after a session or two with a therapist who understood our situation, I finally understood it as well. We still monitor our children’s screen activity, but because their brains are wired in a unique way, I’ve had to adjust my expectations and ideas about things. Including my stance on technology.

Some days, I still wonder if my decision to stop worrying about screen time was a bad one. I manage this ongoing internal conflict with a lot of mindfulness techniques and talk therapy. But despite my resistance, my kids seem to be getting what they need.

Sure, we still hit the pool and other air-conditioned haunts, but to this formerly tech-phobic mom’s surprise, screens are a staple in our routine too.



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Writer, mother, and recovering alcoholic living in the Deep South.