I'm not a bad mom because my kids get too much screen time…the experts say so.
My husband and I are pretty liberal with screen time. Probably too much…at least that is what I’ve thought until I read that pediatricians were changing their tune about recommendations on screen time.
Friends and family members have made snarky remarks about how often my two five-year-olds play with their tablets or watch television. We’ve gotten dirty looks in restaurants because our kids were glued to their devices – quietly glued to their devices, I might add. And, while certainly the exception and not the rule; I’ve been guilty of letting a cranky kid play with my phone at the grocery store, just to get through a freakin' shopping trip.
Screen time is a huge topic of discussion in mom groups, at school…pretty much anywhere moms gather to talk about their kids. It seems the majority of moms that are vocal about screen time are the ones who blab about how much they limit it.
I mean…saying stuff like “I only let little Annabelle play video games for twenty minutes on alternate Mondays when it’s not raining” certainly screams ‘responsible parenting,’ right? When I hear a statement like this I become very interested in my shoelaces, stealing glances at other parents to see who else might be studying their shoes or averting their eyes. Those are my people…the ones who don’t set strict limits on screen time and are hoping not to get sucked into a discussion on how much television their kids really watch by little Annabelle’s mom…who probably totally lets her kid binge watch Dora when no one is watching.
I don’t really limit screen time. I let my kids watch television before school because it keeps them occupied (see also from tearing up the house and fighting) while I’m trying to get dressed and organize breakfast. Lots of people would tell me those twenty minutes a day of Disney Junior are ruining my kids’ minds.
I let my kids play with their tablets in the evening because…well, because they enjoy it, frankly. I say no to a lot of stuff, believe me. I don’t see the reasoning on telling them they can’t play a particular game just because it comes in electronic form. And, I’m not going to lie…sometimes at the end of the day, I want to sit on the couch and veg out in front of my own screen and I don’t want to get on the floor and build stuff with LEGOs or play Hungry Hungry Hippos. There are probably plenty of people out there that would slap the “bad mom” label on me for admitting that.
Car trips lasting more than 20 minutes? We take along the tablets or bust out that built-in DVD player that was a driving factor in why we purchased the minivan in the first place. Yes, you read that right. Built-in DVD player was at the top of the must-have list when we were van shopping.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has been pretty consistent in their guidance for screen time: No more than two hours a day for children over two and none for children under two should be allowed none.
But. Times…they are a' changin'.
Although the new AAP guidance has not yet been made public, they have released some key messages on updated screen time recommendations, such as:
The amount of time your child spends glued to the screen isn’t as important was what they’re looking at…so in theory, a kid could spend four hours a day playing games on his tablet as long as the content were engaging his brain and mental skills. Playing educational games is different from just watching TV all day…and that makes sense.
My kids have all kinds of cool apps…they can draw pictures with their fingers. They can modify “clay” sculptures of their favorite cartoon characters. Okay, I’m not really sure what the educational value of that is, but it is pretty funny to see them give Mickey Mouse a duck’s beak…or a really big butt. They laugh themselves silly over that one…and that’s okay. There are apps that teach numbers, letters and sight word as well as downloadable books…not all bad stuff.
My boys also know how to download mindless kid shows…they’ve discovered really old school episodes of the Power Rangers and much to my disgust, the one show I never wanted them to watch: Caillou. Seriously, I would rather my kids watch OITNB or Walking Dead than Caillou. Someone will end up needing therapy over television viewing in our house…right now, it’s me.
All joking aside, educational (or even educational-ish) games and apps are not going to cause your child’s brain to rot. That sanctimommy at the playground who trills about limiting screen time? Good for her. I’ve just received validation that I don’t suck as a parent because I have a liberal policy on when my kids are allowed to have their devices. I’ll take it.
It’s okay for teens to be present online:
If I've heard one parent of a teen complain or express worry about the amount of time their kids spend online, I've heard a hundred. But now, the AAP is saying social media and screen time are good for teens.
My boys are five, so we there’s time before they start asking for their own Twitter accounts, but it’s good to know that we’re facing the tween and teen “I’m glued to my phone and my headphones are fused to my scalp” years with realistic expectations. Today’s teens need to be social media savvy because tomorrow’s adults will be expected to be social media savvy. Teaching our kids to have a safe, kind online presence is important and to do that, we have to allow them to form online relationships or nurture “IRL” relationships through electronic means. It might exasperate us that our teens want to text the kid next door but it’s the world we live in.
Even though the AAP recommendations are changing with the times, some things don’t change: the responsibility to be a parent. To play with our children and know what they’re interested in and who they’re talking to. The fact that technology is advancing lightning fast doesn’t remove our obligation to set limits and be involved.
My kids’ childhood experience will continue to be so much different than mine. And why not? There’s a world of technology and opportunity for them to grab that wasn’t even possible in the 1970’s. They still play outside. They still build stuff with LEGOs and blocks (trust me…I step on plenty of non-electronic toys every day) and they still like to color, draw and paint with real art supplies. They’re not missing out on their childhood experience simply because they’re keeping up with the changing times….and their brains certainly aren’t turning to mush over a few video games.
Caillou is a completely different story.
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