It has happened. Degree by degree, minute by minute – television shows, apps, and e-books have become a daily part of life for my 2 year old. I think it started with his nanny (as a mom, it’s always easier to blame the nanny ;)). She would sit him to watch nursery rhyme videos and Pocoyo. I pushed back – not seeing the purpose for a 9 month old to see any tv. I won the battle, but we are losing the war. Starting from about 18 months (which coincided with the last few months before I defended my dissertation), I would have him watch Wall-E*. Not the whole movie, just 10 minutes here and there, but he LOVED it. Wall-E was among his first 50 words.
How much screen time does he get now? I should know the answer. I know that I should know, but I don’t. In our house there is a tag-team approach to parenting. Mom needs to go to the doctor, TAG – you’re in. Dad needs to run to the market, TAG- you’re in. Mom and dad are going out to dinner, TAG – you’re in, Lolo (Miles couldn’t pronounce ‘abuelo,’ so my dad is now and forever more Lolo). I know that we all on occasion let him watch tv. I don’t know how much exactly, but maybe….probably…definitely… too much.
This is actually a very confusing part of parenting for me. My relationship with television was…well…let’s put it this way. Television was my third and favorite parent. I have just as many memories of Full House, Saved by the Bell, and My So Called Life episodes than I do of family vacations and one-on-one time with my parents. Actually, who am I kidding. I remember TV way more than anything else. I could much sooner recall every TV show theme song than the elements of the periodic table. I had a small TV in my room starting in middle school. I used to stay up late and watch Nick at Nite. Did it fry my brain and make me unable to concentrate in school? No. Did it keep me from playing sports, doing plays, having friends, etc? No. However, when I think about the cumulative hours of my life spent watching tv, I am not at all proud. I see a huge opportunity cost in time.
TV, videos, and games are even more pervasive on our lives than ever. When Miles is beginning to melt down at a restaurant I can easily play an episode of his favorite show to calm him down. It’s convenient, but not my finest hour as a parent. I guess this must be how our parents felt about Walkmans and Gameboy, and how their parents felt about color tv and Elvis.
Do you have a strict time limit for screens for your kids (or for yourself)? Is there such a thing as TV addiction? How do you think technology is changing the way we watch TV? Have you seen this adorable babies with ipads blog?
* As an aside, there are no scary villains in Wall-e and very little dialog. It’s not exactly educational, but Miles did learn the word ‘plant.’