I follow a number of mummy groups on Facebook. I’ve posted a few small questions or comments, but mostly I lurk and read what others are saying. Recently one mummy asked what channels and shows were best for educational and musical programming for her 9 month old.
Immediately, I knew I had to contribute….if only to be a voice that provided a suggestion (Sesame Street, duh) and didn’t go all holier than thou about screen time. Because there were a few of those.
You know the ones. The “paediatrician’s recommend no screen time before 2 and MY child is 3 years old and has NEVER EVER even seen a screen” ones. The ones that kindly suggest that, rather than allowing your child screen time, you spend time playing learning games and reading to them. The ones that think they’re better than you.
A few thoughts….
Maybe these people are lucky to live in mansions, or at least very large houses, where they have separate play rooms filled to bursting with learning toys. Houses in which a baby or toddler can roam about, and never once come across a television screen (would such parents allow their children to roam about? Hmm…).
I do not live in such a house. I live in a small bungalow. My son has a small bedroom with a few toys and mostly books in it. There is no play room. The rest of his toys are in the living room, where our TV just happens to be located. So yeah….he’s been exposed to the TV screen pretty much since birth, because we like to have him with us, and we like to watch television from time to time. Has he been paying attention to it all this time? Not really. Opening credits featuring lively music do tend to grab his attention. But unless it’s Olympic Hockey or Luge (for real!), or Elmo….he couldn’t really care less, and goes about playing with his own toys with the TV in the background.
Boo was playing with the universal remote – and somehow managed to turn on the TV (I can barely turn on the TV) – where a children’s program was already on! I rewarded his ingenuity (luck) by allowing him to watch a bit. After a few minutes he lost interest, and got back to playing guitar.
Many of these “my child has NEVER” types are very active in the mummy groups….which require a screen (be it computer, tablet or mobile) to participate. When and where are these women looking at, and commenting on, Facebook? Considering their level of participation, how are they keeping this part of their lives completely hidden from their budding geniuses? Are their children so engrossed in interactive play (with someone else presumably) that they don’t see mummy using her screens? Or is it because they’re in daycare, or with the nanny, and so it doesn’t really matter what mummy’s doing?
My Boo absolutely sees me checking my email, social media, or texts from time to time. I don’t do it excessively in his presence…but I don’t pretend it doesn’t exist (plus, since I work from home, sometimes I HAVE to read/answer that email).
Do they never answer their mobile phones in the presence of their children? And if so, did their luddite children show no curiosity whatsoever in them? (What kid isn’t interested in the phone? ANY phone?) Have they never used Skype or FaceTime to video chat with a long-distance loved one who’d like to see their child’s face, in real time, to see their expressions and reactions?
I’m not lucky enough to have everyone I love live in the same city as me. My parents live in another city, and have recently started the transition to snowbird (spending more and more time in Florida – lucky ducks), which means I often find myself using FaceTime so that Nana and Gramps can see their little Boo.
Do they not use their smartphones to snap pictures or capture videos of their angelic cherubs? Do they never show said pictures or videos to their little angels? (I mean…how cute is it to see their reactions to seeing THEMSELVES on the phone??)
If not….WTF? Are they only using a digital camera? Do they ever download and VIEW their pictures/videos? Or are they completely analog? Do their children only see printed photos and no home videos whatsoever?
We upload our home videos to a media server and watch them on our TV….Boo enjoys them as much as we do!
And what about interactive play involving a screen? I’m not talking about plopping your kid in front of an app, but rather using a screen in a complementary fashion to other activities. For instance: Boo loves to look at books of animal pictures. I try as hard as I can to tell him about them, and to make animal sounds. It just so happens that there are a ton of animals for which I have absolutely no fucking idea what kind of sound they make. A flamingo? A walrus? How about a giraffe?
So we grab my phone and look them up. We find YouTube videos displaying pictures or video and – most importantly – sounds of the animals illustrated in Boo’s books. Is this going to turn my son’s brain into mush? I doubt it very much. What it *is* doing, however, is making him even more enthusiastic about animals (at least the ones that don’t make him cry….he really didn’t like the sounds coming out of that angry chimpanzee).
The judgement. The implication that, instead of trying to stimulate and educate my child, I’d rather throw him in front of the TV babysitter and go chat in my mummy’s groups or watch soap operas.
This is the worst one. Because they’re totally judging you. They’re judging you without knowing anything about you, your life, or your child. They don’t know if you didn’t get any sleep last night, and just need a 10 or 15 minute break where you don’t have to run after your toddler. They don’t know if your little one has been crying non-stop from teething, but stops as soon as he sees Elmo sing and dance on the screen. They don’t know if you have one, two or three (or more!) other children to care for, all vying for your time and attention, and you just need to distract at least one of them for a few minutes so you can take a bathroom break. They don’t know if you’re looking for educational and valuable screen options to keep your child occupied on an upcoming trip, or at one of your very few restaurant outings, without having to lug heavy books and umpteen toys with you. They don’t know…..
They just don’t know.
Over the holidays my total count of restaurant dinners since Boo’s birth finally filled one hand….you better believe my little man gets to play on the iPad when our dinners are served so I have a few moments to eat, without his grabby little fingers in my plate!
So instead of judging you and telling the world how much better they are by protecting their precious little children from the inherent evils of all screens until they’re 10 years old….the “my child has NEVER” types should just shut up. They can parent their children however they want to, and I’ll be quite content to parent my children in whatever way I see fit. Even if that includes a screen from time to time.
I’ll get off my soap box now.