Are you worried about screen time? You know, the time your child sits quietly without bothering you and watches a screen?
We hear all the time that we should limit our child’s screen time, or that they shouldn’t watch a screen at all, but lets be realistic shall we?
SCREEN TIME = MOMMY’S SANITY!
There are so many devices today that attract our children’s attention and can keep them occupied for a substantial amount of time. TV, iPads, iPhones, Kindles, computers, and video games are all devices my kids LOVE.
Now some people have amazing kids that will just go to their room and play for hours. I’m lucky if mine will play by themselves for 30 seconds. Occasionally they will play together for a short time, but 99% of the time it ends with fighting and screaming. The only way I get anything done when my kids are home is by putting them in front of a screen.
Confession #1: I USE THE IPAD AS A BABYSITTER.
There I said it, and I’m not ashamed of it. If I don’t have a way to keep them occupied while I try to get something accomplished, I will hear “MOMMY” every 10 seconds (because they want something constantly), they will follow me around making a mess faster than I can clean it, or make me stop what I’m doing to break up their fights every 5 minutes. I can forget making a phone call, cooking, cleaning, going to the bathroom by myself, or even eating.
If I want to sit down to eat and enjoy my meal, I give them an iPad after I feed them. If I don’t, they want to sit on my lap and try to eat my food, even if I just gave them the EXACT same food on their plates that they refused to eat. Now you may be thinking, why don’t you just eat when they eat? Well because if I do that I can’t sit down! They ask me to get up and get them something every two seconds, so I’ve found it’s easier to just remain standing. That is how I eat most meals. If I do have extra time, or I have a meal I really want to enjoy, I wait until they are done eating, shove an iPad in their face, and then sit down to eat.
Confession #2: I USE THE IPAD TO GET MY KIDS TO EAT
Another trick I learned, that all the perfect parents will cringe over, is in order to get my twins to eat, I put an iPad on the table and let them watch YouTube. It was a game changer for my picky twin who doesn’t like to eat much or sit still. If I put his favorite show in front of him, he will sit there and mindlessly eat all his meal while watching it. If I don’t, he will take two bites, say he’s done, and start running around the house. Is this a good habit to start? Probably not, but does it get him to eat, YES!
Confession #3 I USE THE IPAD TO CALM THE CHAOS
If my kids have been running around the house screaming and going crazy for a significant amount of time, and I feel my sanity slipping away, I put a show on the TV or hand them and iPad. Momma can only take so much crazy before it’s time to calm the storm. Ideally, I’d love to just tell all three of them to go to their rooms and quietly read a book. My oldest could do this now, but not the twins. They would immediately come out wanting my attention.
By now I know you’re probably thinking that all I do is let my kids watch screens. This is definitely NOT true. Do I think it’s OK to let my kids watch TV from the moment they wake up until the moment they go to bed every day?Absolutely not! I firmly believe it is important for children to have lots of physical activity and interaction with others to develop motor and social skills. My kids get plenty of that. We play games, do arts and crafts, have play dates, go to the park, etc. When the weather is nice they hardly ever have any screen time. They love being outside and running around with friends. However, in the colder months they do spend a lot more time on their devices.
Not all screen time is bad. There are LOTS of great educational apps and videos that kids can watch. I try to encourage these choices, but for some reason the twins love watching other kids playing with toys on YouTube. I mean they are mesmerized by this.
My oldest, however, loves to do educational apps like Lexia and DreamBox (he used to only want to watch the YouTube toy videos though). I’ve allowed him to watch TV since he was born, and he’s had a Kindle, iPad, or Nintendo DS since he was 3. For those who think this was detrimental to his development, I’m happy to tell you he is currently in 1st grade but reads at the 4th grade level. Also, he always tests at the 3rd or 4th grade level on standardized tests. Did I always let him sit in front of a screen? No. I spent LOTS of time with him teaching him his letters, numbers, colors, etc. over the years. He also played t-ball, soccer, karate, and loved to do a million other things little boys do, BUT he definitely had more than and hour of screen time a day on average.
I’m not saying you should just buy your newborn an iPad and let them watch it as much as they want growing up. You definitely need to work with your child and educate them without screens, but you don’t need to set such strict limitations on the amount of screen time they have. If my 3 year old wants to watch a show for more than an hour a day, like the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends as the limit, I don’t think its a problem.
Now that I’ve given you an honest example of how my family handles screen time, I will show you what the American Academy of Pediatrics says about screen time (yes, I clearly see that I’ve broken most of these rules, but that’s ok)
This is from the American Academy of Pediatrics (www.aacp.org)
- For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing.
- For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
- For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.
- Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.
- Have ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline