The PAIL Monthly Theme Post topic for August is “Screen Time.” This category was actually a topic I submitted for discussion, and I am extremely interested in other parent’s perspectives on this one, as my own opinions seem to be constantly evolving.
Here’s my intro I wrote on PAIL last week:
Not in my house!
That’s what I used to say about my (future) children watching TV. I grew up in a household where we only had the three channels that you could get with the old bunny ears antenna. I don’t remember watching TV at all as a small child (though we did have much loved family movie nights), but I do know that during later years, we were allowed to watch a maximum of one hour of TV per day, and only if our homework was done. Full House anyone?
On the flip side of things, my husband (who, to be fair, also spent a great deal of his childhood playing outdoors) had pretty much unlimited TV time growing up, and he sees no problem with the TV being on at all times in our house.
Adding to the screen time exposure for kids and adults alike now days are the cell phones, hand held games, iPads, laptops, etc. that are everywhere.
So what’s a parent to do?
|Skyping with her grandparents and auntie last month.|
This topic was first brought to my attention by my sis-n-law a couple of years ago. She has a toddler and an infant, and back when the toddler was a baby, she mentioned her beliefs about how detrimental screen time can be for babies and toddlers. I had never really thought about it from the developmental standpoint, but I found her opinions to be thought provoking. Then my friend Sheelah wrote a great post on this topic a few months ago that also included information about the decreased language skills of the baby video watchers, and since this time I had my own infant in my arms while reading, it really got me kick started to be thinking about the issue more.
In reality, the TV is on in our house a lot. Before I lived with my husband, I never had satellite TV, mainly because I was too cheap to pay for it and didn’t care enough to spend my hard earned cash on it. I’ve always loved movies (thanks for the addiction, Mom!), but TV… meh. I could take it or leave it. My free time was spent reading or hanging out with friends. My husband, on the other hand, loves TV, and the #1 reason is sports. Baseball – ya, he has a Cardinals tattoo on his shoulder, that’s how much he loves them. Football, golf, and just basic ESPN Sports Center…you name it, he watches it. He loves it. The problem, too, is that is all “real time” programming, so it’s not like we could just skip the cable bill and rent the seasons from Netflix to watch after Stells is in bed. Also, now that we do have TV, I love it too. Charlie and I have shows that we watch together (ex. Suits and The Mentalist). My sis-n-law and I have shows that we watch together (ex. Grey’s Anatomy and The Bachelorette). I have my background shows that I’ll have on while I’m cooking (ex. The Pioneer Woman and The View). So yeah, it’s not like I’m not a TV watcher by any means.
However, I don’t want Stella to be one.
I want her first inclination to be to play outside. To build blanket forts. To read a book. To go on a bike ride. To do basically anything except watch TV.
Here is my conundrum. Our TV is on our living room, which is the only logical place to have it. It is in the middle of everything (lvrm/dining/kitchen is all one space), and in our tiny house, we don’t have a separate family room, den, office, etc. that would allow us to have a family space that doesn’t have a television in it. Also, at the daycare Stella goes to on Mondays and Tuesdays, I know that the TV is often on while the provider’s kids play video games and watch movies during summer break.
Yes, we could choose to leave the television off in our home during Stella’s awake hours (though that won’t fix the daycare issue), but my husband doesn’t feel the same way I do about TV for kids, so it’s hard to convince him to turn off the Cardinals game when he doesn’t see any harm in that being on while Stella plays on the floor…and to be honest, I’m not sure I do either, because thus far at least, she pays little to no attention to it.
See, here’s the thing. I don’t turn the TV on to the kids channel and plop Stella in front of it. I don’t ever want to make TV watching a “habit” of hers, and I don’t want her watching (even one hour) of it every day. She does get screen time when she Skypes with my parents. I’m sure she will get screen time on the iPad when she’s old enough to play games on it (side note: my SIL said that PBS has a great iPad app for educational kids games, and that’s my nephew’s special treat that he gets to play whenever she needs him to sit still so that she can cut his hair!). I do put in a hand-me-down Baby Mozart DVD probably once every week or two when I just need that extra 20 minutes to finish pumping or finish putting dinner together and Stella is starting to lose it. We seriously call that shit “baby crack” in our house – it’s slightly frightening how she is immediately 100% engrossed in the TV screen when we turn it on. Eek.
|4 months old, and engrossed in Baby Mozart|
So yeah, she gets screen time, but I don’t want her to assume that she can/should watch it whenever she wants. I don’t want a four year old who comes downstairs in the morning and begs to watch television first thing. I don’t want a 14 year old that zones me out because she is playing her video game or watching her show instead of telling me about her day. I don’t want a 24 year old that is struggling with her weight because she has spent so many hours of her life watching TV or sitting in front of her computer instead of being active outdoors.
Yes, I get that not all of those scenarios are necessarily going to happen if I let TV watching become a habit for Stella, but do I really want to test it to find out? I know that I have skipped workouts because I wanted to write a blog post or watch my favorite TV show – is it that crazy to think that she would do the same?
Family movie nights should be a privilege, not a right.
Saturday morning cartoons should be a privilege, not a right.
So I guess this is where I stand for now…
(1) I can choose to not have the television on when I’m home with Stella and she is awake.
(2) My husband can make it a priority to interact with Stella while he’s home – even if the big game is playing in the background on the TV
(3) I can’t control the TV at daycare, but I can request that video game playing is only allowed during Stella’s nap times and see what she says.
(4) Charlie and I can discuss as she grows up how much TV and what kind of shows we are okay with her watching (and when!). For now, that is only the occasional Baby Mozart DVD, though that could very well change.
(5) We can be realistic about the amount of screen time kids get these days between computers and phones, and we can limit that as we so choose. For now, she only gets Skype time with grandparents, though I’m guessing this too will change quickly as she ages.
Do you agree with me? Disagree? How are you handling this? I’m open to suggestions – this is a tough one!
(If you’d like, click here to read about this topic on PAIL and submit your own post to the discussion!)