I was very interested to hear last week that the American Academy of Pediatrics is considering revising their guidelines for screen time for kids. In recent years, they have recommended no screen time for kids under 2, and no more than 2 hours a day for ages 2 and up. Now they are taking a much more nuanced approach — and one that recognizes that screens are ubiquitous and not going away.
I spend a lot of time — too much, I think — worrying about how much “screen time” Emma gets. I wrote about this a little last year when she was not quite 2, and I’m still struggling with the same basic question. How much is too much?
While I’d like to treat the AAP’s relaxed rules as a permission slip to let myself and my “mom guilt” off the hook, I still hesitate. For several weeks in July and August, we inadvertently weaned Emma off iPad and TV time. After a particularly whiny evening, I declared the following day would be a “no iPad” day when we got home from work and daycare. That day flowed into the next, and on and on. Very quickly, Emma stopped asking to watch the iPad or TV. It seemed to be so clearly a case of “out of sight, out of mind” — and conversely, evidence that the more she gets, the more she wants.
With her move up to the next room at daycare 2 months ago, Emma now gets to use a computer occasionally to play counting games and such. (It’s a computer with a mouse and keyboard, and apparently all the kids without exception start out trying to touch the monitor. It’s so weird to realize a keyboard and mouse are becoming somewhat outdated.)
A little computer time at school is totally no big deal, but of course with Charlotte’s arrival, the iPad and TV have returned in full force at home too. My usual method is to use it as a reward — “you were a good listener when we were at the store, so now you can watch some iPad” — but she’s starting to expect it, and even negotiate for it. She asks for it as soon as she gets home, and zones in on the screen. I worry that it has an effect on her attitude and behavior.
Still, I guess I am somewhat comforted to see what we already follow a lot of the revised guidelines. We don’t use devices at the dinner table. She doesn’t watch anything in the car (road trips being an exception). We don’t have TVs in the bedrooms and I don’t intend to change that. We make sure that the majority of the content is educational, and that all of it is age-appropriate. One of us sometimes watches with her. And while we definitely use screen time when to keep her occupied (and out from under our feet) at times, we don’t use it as a substitute for quality time. I consider myself an active and engaged mother, and I don’t use an iPad as a substitute for parenting. And on top of all that, Emma is currently a smart and well-adjusted kid.
So. When I started writing this post I wasn’t sure how I would conclude, and now that I’m at the end…I still don’t know. I guess I’m just thinking out loud (er, online) and still figuring things out as we go along.
Parenting, man. It ain’t easy.