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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5 Responses to “screen time”

  1. Shannon April 7, 2015 at 7:32 am #

    I think we put an awful lot of pressure on ourselves to be perfect every day, with activities and crafts and dance parties, but the reality is this: Sometimes parenting, especially in the early days of stubborn toddlers and wailing babies, requires a white flag and an understanding that there are days when all you can do is survive. Sleeping kids with full tummies, brushed teeth and kissed cheeks, tucked into bed for the night? Totally a win for the day. If it took some screen time to get there, then that’s what it took. You’re doing just fine. You’re doing even better than fine, really. 🙂

  2. California mom April 7, 2015 at 10:29 am #

    I hear you. With our first it was no screen time til two, then it was 2 Dora shows rationed every day (I was kicking myself for introducing tv bc she wanted much more). I was home with a new baby then. Now the older one gets shows during the younger one’s nap on the weekends bc she doesn’t nap at home. Unfortunately their dad let the little one who rises early watch shows in the am before 2 and now (2 1/3) she has something of a Caillou addiction, watching 30-60 min almost every day.

  3. Kerry April 7, 2015 at 10:30 am #

    I struggle with this daily. We were able to avoid TV for the first 2 years with our twin boys…it was easy because they did not know what they were missing as our TV has been broken. When they turned 3 I started showing them videos on the computer and during the last year they have acquired a few favorite shows. Now, they relentlessly demand to watch every day. The first thing they ask when I pick them up from preschool at noon is if they can see videos when they get home. I have had to put limits in place and though it makes my life easier during the moments they are watching the screen, I now wish I had never introduced it to them. Tantrums ensue as soon as I turn it off (this only started a few months ago)! So not sure which tantrum is worse – the tantrum w/o screen time or the one afterwards…lol!

  4. Lisa April 7, 2015 at 4:43 pm #

    You are doing great. I have been in your shoes before, handling bedtime for a baby and toddler solo. I found exactly what you did – letting the toddler watch Daniel Tiger while I put the baby down meant EVERYONE was happier, calmer, and peaceful. That is so very, very worth it. Try not to feel guilty – it is ok to do this so that you all can have a quiet and happy bedtime!

  5. Erin Zoller April 7, 2015 at 11:40 pm #

    First, Facetime/Skype does not count as “screen time”. That is engaged interaction with loved ones. It is vital for relationship connections and familiarity and some of the most wonderful moments can occur. I remember one time Beckett and my mom, 500 miles apart read a book together and drank beverages at the same time. Water from her kitchen, water from his kitchen. He was so tickled. Watching Graham light up when he sees my parents means the world to all of us. So subtract that time. Period.

    Second, I debate with myself about screen time all the time. Two kids, especially at this age where I can’t lay Graham down and he isn’t always able to occupy himself is hard to juggle. And that isn’t just a phrase. Sometimes I literally feel like I am juggling small humans in my home. Using TV judiciously to create a more calm sleep transition AND quality time sounds like THE best way to use it.

    Also, keep in mind that for us, TV was uncontrolled and filled with commercials. I would watch the most ridiculous junk! But now with on demand we can say “Daniel Tiger or Curious George.” And no commercials. Awesome.

    I can’t remember quite how old Ari is, but when Beckett had just turned 3, he began to believe that watching TV when he wanted and as much as he wanted was a basic human right, I felt like something needed to change. So many tantrums. And tantrums in the morning and at night and at nap time, etc. So I made him earn it. He got 2 ping pong balls in his “TV jar” for every pleasant morning, bedtime, bath time (he HATES that), or nap time and when he helped me do cleaning. That was it. I was warned by others with older kids not to reward for anything in order to bribe him. So, I made it very clear that there were only certain things that would count towards earning them. He needs 5 balls to watch 30 min (sometimes if it is working… I allow an hour). But then when I need him to play with toys or imagine or do art, I have a concrete measurement to back me up. It’s no longer mom just being difficult. The ping pong balls don’t lie. He can earn easily about 6 per day. Sometimes not. But it helps focus him in the given moment when reminded about future rewards and he LOVES to add the balls and then count them. And then take them out when redeeming TV and count what is left. A good simple numbers game.

    Just another level of control. Because that is when it starts to feel rotten. When there are not boundaries.

    You are not alone in this, but doing just fine:)

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