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screen time

7 Apr

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It’s a sensitive subject.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that television and other entertainment media be avoided in children under 2 years, but recent evidence suggests that it’s use might be appropriate if used judiciously.

I’m not going to lie.  We first reverted to the use of an iPad when Ari was 13 months old, during a flight home–the dizzyingly repetitive song “Ten Little Numbers.”  Now that she’s nearly 2-and-a-half, we often watch 2 episodes of Daniel Tiger a day, plus FaceTime with Dad or cousins right before bedtime.  Maybe 70 minutes a day?  And it’s not like I have some power to avert Evie’s eyes during that time.

So, not a ton of TV, but not minimal.  And definitely not the the most interactive form of media.  I feel concerned when we reach for the remote for a third episode.  I feel proud during the days I’ve kept them so busy that Ari never asked for her beloved furry friend.  I have three main fears: 1) Screen time will negatively affect their development and attention.  2) I’ll use the screen as a babysitter.  3) They’ll become as addicted to the use of TV and other media for relaxation as I sometimes fear I am.

Right now it’s fear #2 that’s at the forefront in our household.  John’s been working strings of 3p-11p shifts, leaving me for solo dinner, bath-book-bed routine.  I know tons of parents do it, all the time.  Still, after a while I felt like all the joy was sapped out of bedtime as an exhausted Evie wailed on the ground as Ari and I brushed teeth, or as she tried to turn the page of a favorite book prematurely (much to the annoyance of her older sister) and Ari would finally aggressively claw at her hand.  Bedtime became more about alternating tantrums and timeouts rather than stories, songs, and cuddling.  And the entire process would take me 90+ minutes.  Success was never guaranteed.

Then the other night, after the girls had their bath and were in pajamas, I let Ari watch an episode.  I then gave Evie 20 minutes, just her and me–she fell asleep on my chest and transferred peacefully to the pack-n-play (poor girl still doesn’t have a crib…a project for the new house).  And after that I had my time alone with Ari, reading about the dot or a giraffe and a half without tantrum or really any argument about bedtime.  I’m not saying that a little television is a silver bullet, or that it’s appropriate long term, but in that moment it gave us a breather I felt we all needed.  (This could also be an argument that my kids need to learn how to play independently better.  That might be true.  However, I do think that their normal abilities and coping mechanisms seem to unravel at the end of the day.)

Full disclosure: I absolutely resorted to Daniel Tiger this weekend.  I threw out my back (damn awkward car seat!), John was working, and it’s nearly impossible to find a babysitter on Easter weekend.  I took a dose of Motrin and Flexeril, and lay down for a blissful/still painful 30 minutes on my kids’ play mat as Evie cruised over me and Ari sat perched on the couch above, tucked with three blankets.  I am feeling loads better today, and so thankful for the spring breeze!

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