Screen Time Didn’t Ruin Me + It Won’t Hurt My Kids

To this day anytime I am home alone, the people, movement, and voices of the TV comfort me. It makes the house feel less empty. My mom cooks and reads while “watching” Law & Order. Rosie colors and does puzzles while her “toon toons” are on. There is no binge watching, no ignoring real life conversation to catch fictional dialogue, or branching off into separate rooms so we can control our own remotes. The TV is background, inconsequential, a treat. And I am ok with this. 

During one of my earlier memories in life an episode of 20/20 featured a controversy where a woman was trying to use her deceased husband’s sperm to have a baby. I don’t  remember the intricacies of the episode because just like any other evening we were all doing something else while the TV was on. But I heard a few key words and BAM! “Mom, what’s sperm?” and “How can she have a baby if her husband is dead? Don’t you need to kiss at your wedding to have a baby?”

Yes, an episode of 20/20 and dear old Barbara Walters inspired “the talk” for me and my sister. We are a TV family and PROUD of it! Growing up the TV was always on but we were rarely sitting and watching it. Think of it like how most people use a radio, for background noise or entertainment while doing something else like cleaning. It was something that made us feel safe and at home. 

While pregnant with my first child I read the book “Brain Rules for Baby.” It was the only parenting book I read and feel it’s the only one I needed. The advice was science based, easy to absorb, and anchored on a few key points creating a foundation for all parenting situations. Scientist and author Dr. John Medina, among other experts, suggest zero screen time until the age of two. I immediately knew my first “parenting fail” would be the TV. I had no idea how lax I’d become on that and other devices.

My daughter began her love affair with my iPhone during dinner at restaurants. One night we were experiencing a long wait at our favorite fish and chips place and she was getting squirrely. Nothing was fun or entertaining any more, but we were going to get a table any minute.  I downloaded some free Fisher Price apps on my phone and handed it to her. She loved it! She played with shapes and colors and practiced some fine motor skills. We ate and conversed in peace in between engaging with our daughter and the game. 

After a long day at work I love to have the TV on to unwind and as she’s gotten older I have to be more and more aware of what I have on.  The Dr. Phil days of maternity leave are over.  She’s two years old now so I have to go for more neutral, happy things, like lots of HGTV. Can we just say reruns of Fixer Upper over and over?!  And sometimes NickJr is on just for Rosie while we get dinner and dishes done. If we have a long car ride she gets to watch Peppa Pig on the iPad as she’s graduated from the free app games. For Christmas this year she got a LeapPad Platinum tablet with a few learning games, and some day I’m sure we’ll have an ABC Mouse subscription.

None of this totally relieves the “mom guilt,” since I know according to the experts she’s not supposed to have any screen time lest she be a wild, ill-adjusted, non-sleeping, lacking empathy, friendless tyrant. I know I speak for many moms when I say the American Academy of Pediatrics new guidelines on screen time, released fall of 2016, were a bit of relief. But it didn’t absolve the ever present judging looks we get at restaurants when crayons and milk lose their appeal. And I am quickly learning to be ok with this. That others judgement shouldn’t impact the decisions I may for my daughter. 

What I wish I could tell those judging eyes is that Rosie usually only gets 20-30 minutes of cartoons right before bed to help wind down. We turn down the lights and volume and snuggle up with a snack.  We talk about what’s on the show, the characters, colors, how silly they are. We’ve completely kid-proofed the iPad for her watching and playing safety. On the rare occasion she gets more TV or iPad time on a Saturday morning more often than not she gets bored and gets up to play all on her own.

But I shouldn’t have to tell anyone anything about the decisions we make for our daughter. I am ok with the choices we make. We are a TV family and I am proud of it! I am proud of the person I am and who my daughter is becoming. Allowing her to watch TV doesn’t make her make her less intelligent than children who don’t watch TV. She’s not glued to the TV, nor is it ever her “babysitter.” And all those terrible scary consequences? She’s an amazing sleeper, loves vegetables, makes friends easily, displays empathy, and is brilliant.  She has an amazing attitude about life and is a great listener and helper. Screen time has not ruined her. 

I guess Dr. Phil is right; children learn what they live. 

What are the screen time rules in your house? Are you screen-free or are there limits set in place? Was there a time in your parenting that you felt you really had to discuss screen time with your kids?

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Megan G.
Megan lives in Livonia with her husband and three toddlers. Megan works full-time in automotive customer data and digital marketing, but constantly feels the pull of entrepreneurship. When she's not balancing her working-mom schedule with her ever impossible home organization standards, you can find her dreaming up more designs for her apparel and babywearing company. Megan has a passion for learning, podcasts, all things birth, attachment and crunchy parenting. She loves chocolate milkshakes and believes that leggings ARE pants. Keep up with Megan by following her on Instagram: @momoxieco


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