By Alicia Barnes, liciabobesha.com
Years before I had kids, I had no doubt I’d follow the recommendations to keep my babies away from the TV screens, yet now my two year old son has his very own tablet, and I honestly wish I had bought it sooner.
For those first two years I was pretty strict. We don’t have cable or Netflix, so we don’t actually watch much TV ourselves. I did view baby sign language DVDs some, but my child rarely got more than 30 time screen time a week. I certainly didn’t consider letting him use a touchscreen device.
Seeing as we don’t have smartphones, it was easy keeping with the recommendations, but in retrospect, I think it would have been better for everyone if we had loosened up sooner for these situations:
For most of the first year we took turns eating. My husband would eat and then I’d ask him to hold the baby so I could eat. Then the second year the baby got mobile and vocal, so that we mostly stopped eating out. It was too much work. When traveling, our smartphone having friends would occasionally offer their touchscreens to appease my son so he’d stay still while we finished a meal. That’s when I began to really consider getting a tablet for my kid.
Some babies love cars and fall asleep. My baby screamed. He hated cars. He wanted to be in my arms. I wish I had gotten a tablet sooner and found silly little videos that he could have giggled to. I think even the experts would have agreed giggling to the screen would have been a better option than screaming. Certainly would have improved our trips out of town and we probably would have taken more trips.
Planes and airports
Last summer I was on 8 planes with an 18 month old. One trip it was just me and him. On the other I had my husband as well. Out of the 8 flights, 7 were delayed. One of those delays had me in an airport for an unexpected 6+ hours with a flight into an airport nearly 3 hours from my home. Total travel time ended up being 12 hours instead of the planned 4. I do not have words for the feelings I have wishing I had had the tablet to help us through that nightmare.
I lead monthly breastfeeding support meetings for moms. I bring the tablet so I can more fully engage with them without having to chase my two year old away from the brownies or making sure he’s being gentle with a tiny new baby. I let him play as long as he’s playing nice, but once he starts getting tired, I thankfully break out the tablet.
Sometimes I’m just in my house and I want to cook dinner without having to carry on a crazy conversation about a polar bear in a tree. That’s when I break out the tablet. It’s a tool I use when I need or want to do something else and his toys and books aren’t occupying him.
I’ve come to realize the tablet is a useful device when used appropriately and fits in well with our son’s other toys. When I saw a cheap tablet on woot.com for $70, I bought it. It’s not fancy. It’s not fast. It runs many apps. It plays youtube. Most importantly, it streams videos we put on it. After our baby carrier, it is the best tool we’ve bought for parenthood.
He doesn’t use his tablet every day. It’s not always with us, unless we’re going out to eat, then it is most definitely with us. I don’t feel conflicted about it at all. I believe at the heart of the screen time recommendation is it’s so easy to not talk to kids and not read them books when the screen is on. It’s too easy to occupy them and it’s the decrease in time to interact with an actual human that hurts language and development, not the screen itself. Recognizing that, we keep up with our books, we talk all the time, and we limit the tablet, but it is a valuable tool that I love because I can’t always read a book especially when it’s just him and me driving 11 hours like we will be shortly. Honestly, without the tablet I wouldn’t even attempt this trip. The tablet is freeing us all.
Do you limit your child’s screen time? What’s your guide for technology use?
Alicia lives in a small college town that often challenges her resolve to live as simply and as stress-free as possible. When she’s not working, rereading the same children’s books, cooking, or wondering how crunchy she’s become, she’s busy updating her site, liciabobesha.com. You can follow her on facebook.