You know what happened when I gave my toddler an iPad? Nothing, cause I don’t give my toddler the iPad… at least not yet.
Before I dive into this topic, which I know is the subject of a lot of debate between parents and doctors and teachers and whomever, I just want to make it clear that if you give your small child (baby, toddler, whatever) a tablet or phone to watch videos on, you’re not a bad parent. Yes, depending on the situation, I may judge you behind your back, in my own head, or to my wife, but it’s only cause I’m an asshole like that, and that’s what all parents do… they judge. I’m being judged right now by you while you’re reading this article, or any of the other articles on this site, it just comes with the territory of being a parent and raising a kid. You’ve just gotta roll with it and do what you think is best. It does not mean, in any way, shape, or form, that you’re a bad parent.
When it comes to “screens”, as the doctors and parents out there like to call them, we try to limit our daughter’s exposure to them… kind of. We try to limit her exposure, and use, of tablets and phones. We’re horrible parents when it comes to TV, feel free to judge. But I have a different impression of TV because it’s something we can all watch together, instead of being off in our own little worlds when on a phone/tablet.
Limiting Screen Time
As most doctors will tell any new parents, it’s a good idea to keep your child away from screens if they are younger than 2. I’m not sure if something magically happens in their brains at age 2 that allows them to better understand the concept of limiting screen time, but it seems the magic number (at least for our doctor) was 2 years old. Now obviously that doesn’t mean as soon as she turned 2 we started letting her use the iPad or the phones, cause we haven’t, that’s just the message we were given as she progressed through milestones in her early life.
We actually pride ourselves on the fact that our daughter is not attached to any sort of screen. Since we’ve limited her experience to basically zero, when it comes to the iPad, she doesn’t know that there is this magical device that will allow her to watch Peppa Pig while we’re out at a restaurant eating dinner. She doesn’t know that, if she wants, she can watch endless amounts of Elmo videos on YouTube while mommy and daddy are cleaning up after dinner. She doesn’t know any of that, which I feel allows her to experience things in the real world differently, and forces us, as parents, to teach her the proper way to act in certain situations.
The main reason why I bring up this topic now is, 1, there was a recent article that I read that shows the correlation between kids’ screen time and their sleep habits, which I found interesting. And 2, we went out to eat last night, and anyone that’s been out to eat, even if you don’t have kids, know that it’s extremely common these days to see a family sitting around a table completely glued to their phones. It doesn’t even have to be families, it can just be a group of friends, but there is bound to be a time in the night where they are all sitting there looking at their phones instead of enjoying each other’s company. And I’ll admit, I used to be guilty of this as well, and I’ve had some friends that have been extremely guilty of this, but it’s just one of those things that everyone hates, but usually find themselves doing.
Everyone is always curious about what other people are doing, instead of just enjoying what they are actually doing at that point in time. And that’s what I want to avoid with my kid…
I may be totally off base and I might have the totally wrong idea about this, but in my mind, I feel that if my wife and I don’t resort to shoving a screen in front of our kid’s face when we’re out at restaurant, or out with friends, or doing whatever, then she’ll be less inclined to pull out her phone in the future when she’s out with friends. In the same regard, my wife and I refrain from looking at our phones at all while we’re out to dinner with our daughter as well.
Now, as I type that I know I’m being naive. As soon as she’s old enough to have a phone, and we decide she’s responsible enough for one, she’s going to be sitting on it all the time like any teenager would do. But that doesn’t mean we can’t at least try to show her that it’s more important to enjoy the people you’re with than to worry about what other people are doing… and that all kind of starts now with us limiting her use of those devices.
Right now, with a 2 year old, I know that when we take our kid out to a restaurant to eat, we have to be prepared that things are going to suck. It’s just the nature of the beast. She’s going to throw a fit at some point, she’s not going to want to eat her dinner, she’s going to want to run around, there’s going to be something that happens that ruins the experience for my wife and I, but we know that, so we prepare for it… but we don’t prepare for it by shoving a screen in front of her face to calm her down, I think that’s the easy/wrong way to handle the situation. It’s definitely the easiest solution, don’t get me wrong, and sometimes I really wish we could just give her a phone so that we could eat a meal in peace, but we restrain ourselves and prepare in other ways.
Toys, books, crayons, etc., we pack that diaper bag full of shit that she can play with and drop on the floor. Maybe it’s even worse than giving her an iPhone since people can trip over the crap she’s dropping on the floor, or other people are annoyed by the clanging of the cars on the table. I’m sure each and every one of those people in the restaurant is judging us, but that’s fine. I would hope that those people see that we’re at least trying to enjoy a meal together as a family, instead of just eating a meal at the same table while reading Facebook or Instagram on our phones, while our kid watches YouTube.
And I know, believe me I know, that this will come off as me being judgy towards those parents that do just give their kids a phone while at a restaurant, but it’s because I am being a little judgy. I’m being judgy in the same way that I would be judgy of the group of friends out to dinner that are all just sitting on their phones and not communicating with one another. If you made plans to go out with friends, enjoy your time with those friends, who cares what’s happening elsewhere at that same moment. Enjoy what’s happening in the present, then decide what to do later.
I know it’s a touchy subject for a lot of people, and a lot of people just find it easier to calm the kid down with a screen as opposed to trying a different method. And I know that everyone leads such a busy life in this day and age (which is another issue in itself), that sometimes the easy way out is the right decision at the time. I get it, believe me I do. I just want to try my best to show our daughter that it’s more important to enjoy the people you’re with, in that moment, than to worry about what other people are doing.
I do get some heat sometimes from people thinking that our daughter will fall behind in using technology since we limit her exposure so much, but think about it. Touch screen phones only became prevalent when the original iPhone was released in 2007 and nobody had an issue figuring out how it worked. A touch screen is one of the most intuitive pieces of technology available, I think she’ll be alright. Plus, she does get a hold of our phones on occasion and loves to scroll through our photos and videos, so it’s not like she doesn’t know how to use it… she just doesn’t fully understand what all they are capable of, but I’m sure she’ll learn soon enough.