We get different reactions to the idea that we don’t allow our one year old to have screen time. Younger people sometimes roll their eyes. Older adults who didn’t have to raise their kids with the complication of limitless technology cheer us on. The most thought-provoking response I had was when a single friend simply asked me, “Why?”
My response was somewhat rambling. I cited the well-known recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which calls for no entertainment media under age two (the Canadian Pediatric Society suggests the same). However, I didn’t know that even those recommendations changed in 2016. The AAP has decided it needs an update in a world where technology is a bigger part of life than being outdoors and Millennial parents have grown up with smart phones within reach.
So why is our family sticking with the no-screen rule for our toddler? Movement and imagination are two pieces of childhood that I want to offer my daughter to their fullest potential. I watch her learn and discover new things almost every day, and I know that her little brain is developing at a fantastic rate. It’s unlikely that Dora or Paw Patrol could offer her anything that she’s not able to gain from digging in the dirt.
I would like to do what I can to help her to grow up with an attention span that can handle the black-and-white pages of the book or to focus on piano practice, or martial arts drills, or any other creative project that piques her interest.
Perhaps most of all I desperately want her to be able to appreciate a moment and to grapple with real life and raw emotions without the lure of alternate realities.
Granted, letting a toddler play a colorful on-screen game won’t necessarily keep her from living fully or developing key skills—it’s just that there is no shortage of things to engage our child already available to her. Also, because she has never watched a movie or used a touch screen she doesn’t ask for them.
Granted, the time is coming—and we will reassess and adjust our “rules” as she gets older. Access to technology will eventually be an important piece of her development, and hopefully one that we can continue to manage without strict enforcement or raging battles (time will tell).
Steps we take to eliminate technology
We don’t own a television
Although this might seem like an extreme step, my husband and I simply decided that we don’t need to have a t.v. in our life. We use our desktop for just about everything and we do have access to a projector for occasional movie nights. An easier step would be to move t.v.s out of bedrooms, dining areas, and bathrooms. (Just kidding about the bathrooms. But seriously, if you do have a set in there you should move it stat.)
We wait until after bedtime
Like most couples, we do enjoy occasionally watching movies together. However, we make sure our little one is asleep before we curl up on the couch and turn on our show. We also use this as a treat, rather than the standard evening in.
We keep the screens off
When we’re using the computer for music, we simply turn the monitor off. We also let friends and family know that BamBam is not allowed to have handheld technology if the screen is on. Because no one has shown her, she hasn’t figured out how to turn anything on herself. Yet.
We take turns
Like most young parents, technology is simply a part of our own lives. In addition to blogging, I am a freelance writer. Mr M. is a student and his degree will require a lot of planning time. Obviously we need to spend time online. So when I need to work on writing or he has an assignment we have a place where we go sit and work on the laptop. We try to avoid engaging with technology when our baby is awake and needing us to engage with her.
We don’t have data
Although we both have smart phones, Mr. M. and I don’t ever connect when we’re out of the house. On the occasion that we need to, there is usually wifi nearby. For the most part, however, we only use our phones for calling or texting when we’re outside or away from the house. My husband has gone so far as to delete all social media off of his phone—a step that I admittedly haven’t taken yet.
I think technology is going to be the biggest parenting challenge of our generation, and it’s not going anywhere. When I was born cell phones didn’t exist. Nobody knew what internet was. No one even had a computer. Now as a parent myself I’m just going along in this thing doing the best that we can. Eventually BamBam will be more savvy than I am, having grown up with it, and I desperately want to give her the tools to deal with it in a healthy way.
What is your impression/opinion about childhood in the age of the internet?