As the mother of an almost-three-year-old, I like to think I’m a pretty informed parent. I have taken my kid to all her regularly-scheduled well-child appointments; I didn’t give her peanut butter until age one; and most importantly, I am on the Internet all day, every day. That alone should tell you how informed I am as a parent; if I’m not reading 100 different ways I should be properly parenting my child, then I am clearly not doing the Internet correctly.
One thing that’s cropped up seemingly out of nowhere recently is this arbitrary rule, “No screens before age two.” I say “arbitrary” because in my nearly 36 months of parenting, I have never once heard my daughter’s pediatrician tell me not to let me daughter look at screens. And yet, within the past month, I have seen this rule referenced in several articles online, as well as seen people online admit to letting their under-two-year-old watch screens. Admit to whom, exactly, I am not quite sure; I assume these people must be Twitter friends with their pediatricians. Seems unethical, but okay.
Now, I’m going to spare you the whole, “I watched TV all the time growing up and I turned out fine!” argument. I know everyone has a story about how they learned the alphabet by age two because of Sesame Street. They played Nintendo until the wee hours of the morning and hey, they’re completely well-adjusted and valuable members of society! They just happen to constantly have a smartphone in front of their face, but that’s neither here nor there.
Listen, I think we’ve all turned out really great or really terrible because of or in spite of watching too much or too little screens. I think our kids will also turn out awesome or awful regardless of if we let them play with our iPads so that we can get just one second alone for the love of all that is holy please child stop crawling all over me. Ahem.
My issue with this is more the generalized rule-making at work here. What kind of screens are we talking about? TV, computer, tablet, video game, Kindle, portable DVD player, Mom’s iPhone? Can I have the news on in the background while I’m getting dinner ready or is that not okay? I did a kids’ yoga video with my daughter the other day, but we had to watch a screen in order to do said video, so does that defeat the purpose?
And why age two? I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember much of anything until around age three and even then, it’s very fuzzy. Shouldn’t it be, “No screens after age two?” Or age three? What about 18, when our sweet babies are legally allowed to go out and make a bunch of bad decisions on their own? Maybe that’s a good time for them to binge-watch Breaking Bad. God knows my toddler isn’t keeping up with the storyline at all.
Kidding aside, I think if an age-appropriate show causes your two-year-old to sit quietly for 10 or 15 or even 30 minutes and that allows you an opportunity to, say, pee in privacy or to prepare dinner (using all organic and non-GMO ingredients of course), then why wouldn’t you take that opportunity? All due respect to doctors, but don’t we know ourselves and our children best? Can’t we parent the way we want without yet another rule being stuffed down our throats, and worse, being made to feel guilty about ultimately breaking said rule?
Despite my obvious outrage here, I have to admit to being impressed by any parent who doesn’t show their kid screens before age two. What exactly do you all do all day? When my daughter was a baby, I could only read The Very Hungry Caterpillar so many times before I finally had to hide it under the couch cushions. If all I did all day was engage in age-appropriate activities with a one-year-old, I’d be a melting puddle of goo on the floor. Sometimes Mom just needs to watch grown women fighting with one another on the Real Housewives in order to feel better about her own existence and really, is that so terrible?
For the record, I am totally cool with whatever you want to do as a parent. Screens, no screens, it truly doesn’t matter to me. We’re all delicate special snowflakes raising our own delicate special snowflakes and if you want to deny your child the magic of television, then go on with your bad self. You’ll receive no judgment from me. Meanwhile, I’ll be over here watching my 187th viewing of Tangled, which, by the way, has been saved on the DVR for well over a year. God, I love technology.
(Image: getty images)