Let’s Stop Lying About How Much Screen Time Our Kids Get
Hey, you. Yes, you, the one who has one eye on her computer and the other on her smart phone while the TV is on in the background. Listen, I know there is a ton of bad press out there about how damaging screen time is to your kids and that you firmly believe that it will rot your child’s brain and send them all kinds of terrible messages about consumerism and the appropriateness of Selena Gomez as a role model. But guess what? Screen time isn’t going to kill your kid. It’s not going to kill them even a little bit dead.
A parent on Reddit asked about family limits to screen time, citing recent research that says that, “…kids are losing the ability to read emotions because of too much screen time.” They then reference the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendation that parents limit all screen time to an hour or two a day, and avoid screen time altogether for children under the age of two.
I suspect that the AAP has not taken their two-year-old on a five-hour flight recently.
We give ourselves a ton of grief over screen time. It’s an uncomfortable conversation to have with other parents because everyone is either worried about what other people will think about how much their kid gets, or they can’t wait to tell other parents because their kid gets none.
Admitting that your kid gets more than an hour of screen time a day is like confessing that sometimes you let them eat out of the garbage when you’re too tired to cook. People are ashamed, and people lie. I know that they lie about it because I lie about it all the time. Whenever the topic comes up, no one ever admits to more than an hour at a time unless thy are watching a movie which is, of course, a special experience that happens once a week with popcorn and matching pajamas. No one wants to be the parent who says, “My kids are either playing a video game or watching TV most of the time they are home during the week. They don’t on weekends because their father doesn’t approve. Also, my name is Meredith Bland, and this is exactly what happens in my house.” So I usually tell people my kids get an hour a day and then scuttle off to judge myself.
I have decided that there are four types of parents when it comes to screen time:
1. The Pecksniffian Parent (sorry – found that one in the thesaurus and had to use it. Think “sanctimonious.”)
Says: “My kids don’t have any screen time at all.”
They have a vegetable garden and would never ever feed their kids any of that processed crap your kids eat. Your dog is cute, but they don’t have a pet because the domestication of animals is criminal. And while your son’s Star Wars backpack is charming, their kid doesn’t even know what an iPad is. They are regularly asked if their child is home-schooled. They are not.
2. The Humble-Brag Parent
Says: “My kids hardly ever get screen time. Well, maybe a half hour on the weekends.”
They’re just like you, only a little bit better. They make sure to feed their kids balanced meals, but every once in a while, like oh, once a month, they’ll splurge and take the whole family out for nonfat frozen yogurt. They love the public library, but sometimes they’ll cheat and check out an audio book for their kid. Their house is a mess, which is why they make sure to do a little bit of cleaning every single day.
3. The Lying Parent
Says: “My kids watch only half an hour a day, just long enough or me to cook dinner.”
That’s some bullshit. They’ve already admitted that their kids are in front of a screen every day, they just can’t go the extra step and admit that sometimes a half hour is really an hour and a half or more. They never speak first when the group starts comparing parenting strategies; they need to see who’s attending this party before they flip up their dress and get drunk.
4. The Average/Defeated Parent
Says: “My kids are in front of a screen before school, after school, and whenever I get tired.” *mic drop*
They aren’t going to waste anyone’s time trying to come up with a lie about the hours of screen time their kid gets. That’s just one more thing they would need to remember the next time they talk to you, and they’re already pretending they remember your name. They remember how they were raised, and how their parents were raised, and how their great-grandparents were raised, and they know that whether their kids are watching hours of TV or are out working the fields all day, they are probably going to be fine. Everybody is reasonably happy, doing well in school, and not torturing small animals? That, my friend, is successful parenting. Have another episode of Octonauts.
(Photo: Frantisek Czanner / Shutterstock)