KIDS & SCREEN TIME

This is a big, BIG topic. I feel like I hear a nauseating amount about studies and articles and news reports all having to do with kids and technology/social media. How much is too much? How young is too young? Blah blah blah. Not going to lie- I’ve had some nightmares thinking about what it was going to be like for my kids when they got older in terms of social media (and all of the horrendous stuff that can come along with it- cyber bullying, etc) but I didn’t think I was going to have to be thinking so hard about this yet. But an “incident” (ahem, a stranger who maybe should have just kept her opinion to her damn self) that happened this morning while I was in line with Bree has really got the wheels turning.

Let me just quickly say that I am not above screen time - literally the farthest thing from it actually. I work at home and I need uninterrupted time of getting things done (it rarely happens) but I’ll be the first to admit that I throw on the TV or hand Jase an iPad if it means it’s going to entertain them for awhile. I try to encourage going out to the sandbox or playing with toys downstairs first - but I’m sorry, at the end of the day, I need to work and I can’t entertain my kids and get shit done at the same time. I just can’t. So you best believe that when we’re in public and the alternative is my kid screaming until we’re out the door, I’m going to give her the damn phone. Everytime.

Anyway- let me break it down. Between dropping off and picking Jase up at preschool, I was running some errands with Bree and one stop was a market to pick up some fresh fruit and vegetables. It was mid-morning (nearing time for someone to need a snooze) and we were just about finished in the store. Bree had already been getting impatient so by the time we got to the checkout she was rip-rarring to go. Let it be known that I tried other things to entertain her until we were done first- including my keys and even a cucumber (lol- seriously).

We get to the checkout line and right away behind me, two other people showed up that only had one thing in their hand each. I had a cart of fruit & vegetables, so in an attempt to be a half decent human, I of course let them go in front of me to checkout - but this didn’t make Bree any less ready to leave (seriously, why is it ALWAYS at the checkout that kids explode???). I was just about ready to start putting my things up on the counter so I handed her my phone, which was quietly playing a YouTube video of Elmo’s world, and kept moving.

As I was unloading my things, a woman (probably in her 60’s?) that had gotten in line behind me, said, “Wow, isn’t that something that she knows how to scroll the screen like that?”. I smiled and said that it doesn’t take long anymore for them to master it (or something along those lines). It of course would have been fine if that’s where the conversation was left…. but nooooo. Judgy McJudgerson said, in the MOST condescending, all-knowing tone ever, “It’s a shame kids won’t know how to do anything but look down at a phone anymore - they should be learning and playing outside.” Like, no word of a lie. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt… but honestly, if you were there and heard her, you’d agree that being ‘well-meaning’ would have been a stretchhhhh. I was pretty taken aback because that really wasn’t where I thought the conversation was going (like what the hell?), but I …politely… told her that the alternative would be my child crying all the way through the checkout. I then added that technology wasn’t going anywhere anyway, and it wouldn’t make sense to me to shelter kids from it but rather teach them how to use it (she didn’t say anything back).

At first, to be honest, I just felt kind of proud of myself for saying something back that was half-ass thought through, because in my head, I was actually saying, “seriously, can you fuck off?”. My kids, my business. I was annoyed that she saw Bree holding the phone and right away assumed my one year old does nothing but play on my phone. Of course, she’s entitled to her opinion - but what she isn’t entitled to is making assumptions and then commenting to me on what my parenting is apparently like. What she couldn’t see was that my kids, if given a choice, would pick going outside to go on the swings or going for a tractor ride EVERY TIME over an iPad.

She also mentioned that they should be ‘learning’ - I think I know what she meant, but honestly does anyone think kids are watching these videos and not learning? I mean, sure, maybe watching other kids open presents and play with new toys isn’t super educational - but as long as they’re watching decent videos (we downloaded KidsTube and it’s been great - ya’ll know Blippi?), it’s hard to argue that they’re not learning anything from what they’re watching. Not to mention all of the educational apps you can download, the iPad basically just becomes a glorified LeapPad. In our case, it’s been quite the opposite actually.

I also truly stand behind what I said. Technology isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. I’m not going to pretend like it doesn’t exist and hide my kids from the TV and internet. I want them to understand it, and I want to teach them how to use it responsibly. They have limits. They spend tons of time exploring and playing and imagining. And the bottom line is, whatever we decide is appropriate for our kids is OUR business and our decision. Period.

I know that technology has a bad reputation when it comes to kids, but I just don’t think anyone needs to be judging parents with babies in grocery lines assuming they’re raising lazy, technology-addicted zombies. It annoyed me. If anything, I want to try and use it to our advantage. For example, when we first put Jase in swimming lessons, there was a lot of crying. He was scared, and was NOT having it. But we were ADAMANT about swimming lessons, because we have a pool at home. Kev got the idea to show Jase videos of other kids taking swimming lessons, and explain to him what they were doing, and showing him how much fun they were having. And you know what? It worked! If you plan to avoid screen time with your kids, all the power to you. The best part is that it’s YOUR call. Not everyone is going to agree with me, and that’s okay. But this is how we do it. There are dark places on in the internet that we will educate our kids about and do our best to protect them against, but until then, we plan to use it as the wonderful tool that it is to not only educate… but entertain while we’re in the fucking grocery line.

Thumbnail image : Haley Thuss Photographer

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