Reading Time: 4 minutesArcadia Kim is the Founder and CEO of Infinite Screentime, a movement dedicated to dispelling the negative connotations of screentime and building a community of coaches, educators and child advocates that helps to raise the screen-smart kid. Ahead of her appearance as one of the speakers at TEDxTinHauWomen – “What Matters Now?” on 10 December 2021, we chatted with Arcadia Kim about separating “junk” screentime from “veggie” screentime, how COVID-19 has affected her relationship with technology and what she hopes people will learn from her TED talk.
1. Hi, Arcadia! Firstly, what are you hoping to get across in your TEDx talk?
Arcadia Kim: I hope parents will reframe their understanding of screentime. Screentime is a language for our kids. Technology has changed everything in our life from the way we work, learn, connect, and consume. So, instead of constantly focusing on the danger, limits and threats, I want to encourage parents to have conversations about the successes, connections and opportunities. The concept of Infinite Screentime is about unlocking the infinite potential of technology to prepare our kids for their future by recognising screentime as a normal and important part of our everyday life. From my TEDxTinHauWomen talk, I hope that families can find actionable tips to reposition screentime into family time. I believe we need to talk about screentime like it’s nutrition, physical activity and hygiene. Something we ALL need to know how to do well to survive and thrive.
2. You’ve spoken before about setting healthy boundaries when it comes to screentime, but with the rise in online learning over the past 2 years, how can parents help kids separate “veggie” from “junk” screentime if this is something they’re nervous about?
AK: Yes! In my previous article for Playtimes, I wrote about how not all screentime is created equal. Just like nutrition, it is very important that we have a balanced diet of technology that takes into consideration the quality of apps, tools, media and games. Different types of technology can help family members achieve personal goals, bring people together and even promote different brain activation. This is veggie screentime. Junk screentime, just like junk food, will give you that initial endorphin rush, but there are little long-term sustaining benefits. Lumping our veggie and junk screentime together in one bucket doesn’t take into consideration the diverse choices that we have.
Families need to set healthy boundaries by talking about choices and linking them to personal goals and values. Parents need to explain why a certain app is considered veggie versus junk by relating it to a family goal or principle. For example, “I prefer you to play ‘Prodigy’ vs ‘Roblox’ when you have free time because I want you to discover the fun of learning with play!” With the rise of online learning, it is important to discern when the type of activity that is being associated with the screen. Are you learning, playing or relaxing?
A great tip I like to give my clients is to create different areas in your home for these screen activities. For example, keep all learning screentime on the dining room table and relaxing on the couch. Associating an activity with a space can keep the time in healthy balance and keep things out in the open. We want to get the screens out of hiding so that it becomes a normal and balanced diet of consumption.
3. You’ve also talked about your own relationship with technology and how it’s evolved; what does this relationship look like now, especially in the time of COVID-19 when so much of our lives are online?
AK: Because of COVID-19, screentime has swallowed our families as saviour and foe in one big gulp. Families were confronted with mandatory screentime because there were no other options. We saw how there was more efficiency in work meetings, deeper connections with friends and family, and we even surprised ourselves with the ability to learn new things.
However, on the flip side, we saw our TIME on screens skyrocket! The doom scroll was very real, and because it seemed we could not control much in real life, our screen life became a life line. Additionally, social media and gaming seemed to throw fire onto mental health issues due to the pandemic.
Now in the time of COVID-19, we all understand the double-sided nature of technology, and for that reason we need a more sophisticated approach on how to manage screentime for our families and for our future. Our conversations around screentime have been set in the stone-ages! We need a new, evolved philosophy that affect the home and classroom. I’m hoping that Infinite Screentime can become part of that discussion.
4. What tips would you give to parents looking to overhaul their own relationship with their technology?
AK: Stop what you are doing on your screen! Think about how your technology is making you feel. Validate your feelings. And then make a choice.
This is the single most important thing that parents can do to overhaul their relationship with technology. Injecting mindfulness and purpose in your screen life comes from regular pause moments connecting your emotional state to your screen. Ask yourself, “Are you feeling positive, negative, hopeful, or tired?” Knowing how your screentime activity is affecting your mood will not only bring you more balance but also a deeper appreciation. Please model this habit for your kids!
5. With everything going on in the world, what matters to you now?
AK: I have always prioritised health. However, since the pandemic, my definition of health has changed. Beyond just eating healthy, exercise, or washing your hands, health is about the connections that we have to each other as human beings. Our relationships fuel our progress, stability, and wonder. What matters to me now is how to invest in those connections more deeply and for a greater causer.
Get your tickets to see Arcadia Kim speak at TEDxTinHauWomen here.