Put a Bib on It

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Screen Time Boundaries

screentimeWe recently implemented a new rule in our house. No iPad on school days/nights. Prior to that, we had been allowing Ev to have his iPad before and after school. Admittedly, it was helpful—a crutch of sorts. In the morning, Ev would get on his iPad and I could drink my coffee/do my hair and make-up in peace. And in the evenings we could make dinner and complete other chores waiting to get done like emptying the dishwasher. Ev never spent more than two hours total on any given day but it did start to control his life.

Ev was becoming obsessed with his iPad, addicted even, maybe. It was starting to ruin our mornings. Even with warnings when it was time to go, it was a struggle. He always wanted five more minutes to play whatever game he was playing. Then I would get frustrated with him and the domino effect would continue from there. I can’t believe I am admitting this in writing, but I even began letting Ev bring his iPad in the car. Honestly, I just didn’t want to have the battle. But then I was missing out on time with Ev on days when our time together feels so limited. In the evening, it would be the same; Ev would rush to his iPad and then get so upset when it was time for dinner—time to turn it off.  That battle would ruin dinner. He would refuse to eat while my husband and I were trying to eat. We’d give him warnings; saying things like, “When dinner is over, you will not be able to eat,” and, “If you choose not to eat now, you will not get another chance.” But even so, Ev would wait until we were finished with dinner and then say he was ready. But dinner was over and we felt strongly that we should not give in. We like dinner time to be a family re-connection time where we talk about our days and enjoy each others company. It was quickly becoming not enjoyable.

After some discussion, we implemented the no iPad on school days/nights rule. It’s been about three weeks and we have noticed a positive change. Granted the transition wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies (although it didn’t take nearly as long as I expected for Ev to adjust to the change). One time Ev had to call me out. My husband was on a business trip so it was just the two of us. I pulled out my iPad at dinner and Ev immediately told me it wasn’t fair that he didn’t get to have his. On a recent morning Ev asked if he could have his iPad and when I reminded him of the rule he told me he didn’t care if he rotted his brain and he didn’t want to be smart. Apparently those are some of my words from some point in the past.

Our mornings are smoother and full of good conversation. (Today on the ride to school Ev told me he wanted a pet bird and then changed his mind to a snake and then changed his mind to a spider and then we talked about what was necessary for proper care-taking). Dinner time is better. Most evenings Ev eats with us and we enjoy our time together. The decision didn’t come lightly. We knew in our brains that losing the iPad on week days was the healthier, more appropriate choice but we also knew in our hearts Ev was going to be bummed. It’s good our brains over powered our hearts this time because we are all better off for it.

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I love technology (and that’s okay)

"I absolutely feel like it is possible to enjoy the little things, the simple and timeless pleasures of parenthood, and still participate in a modern, technology rich culture. This is the world we live in now, and I embrace what brings joy and moderate the rest. "

There’s a lot of talk about kids and technology, both in what they should and shouldn’t be exposed to, and how their parents ought to be using it. Or, as it happens, not using it.

Like just about everything else, I feel like there’s an enormous spectrum of what’s appropriate and what works for each individual and each family. I am absolutely guilty of using my smart phone to check in with friends on Facebook or flood Instagram with pictures of Miss E trying every new thing, though there’s always that little voice in the back of my head encouraging me to stop click-clicking and get down on the floor with her and play. And I usually do. But those few minutes with my device? That’s a part of my life, and it’s going to be a part of Miss E’s life, too. Already she’ll pull my tablet into her lap, her little pointer finger tapping on the screen and looking at me expectantly, as though expecting me to offer her the password. While it’s my sincere hope to limit her screen time to zero until she’s two, I don’t harbor any delusions that she won’t enjoy video games and silly cartoons as much as her mama and dad, when the time comes.

Without technology, I wouldn’t have captured the soft, snuffley little sounds she used to make when she was just a month old, lying on a blanket in the nursery with my iPod recording beside her head. When I discovered these files months later, having forgotten them in the haze of new parenthood, I was elated. I still listen to them when I need cheering, and I expect I will in years to come. I don’t remember her coos this clearly, and it’s an incredible gift to have them forever (or for as long as there’s a compatible means of playing them, I’m crossing my fingers).

If it weren’t for my obsessive camera toting, I wouldn’t have taken this picture. While it was a delight for my husband and I, it was made even more special when I shared it (again, on Facebook) to the comments of friends and family, one of whom remarked that her expression was not only a happy one, but one of complete trust in her dad. And that’s not something that occurred to me, and that’s a face I’m sure we’ll want to remember when she’s fourteen. The friend in question? She lives on another continent. Our ability to communicate thanks to prolific social media, and the privilege of being able to share my daughter with her as she grows, is something I cherish.

I absolutely feel like it is possible to enjoy the little things, the simple and timeless pleasures of parenthood, and still participate in a modern, technology rich culture. This is the world we live in now, and I embrace what brings joy and moderate the rest.

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Screen Time Troubles

After the age of two, what can you do about screen time?Lately I have been struggling with the amount of TV Ev watches. I really want our lifestyle to support healthy eating and active living and we truly do our best but sometimes it can be difficult. Health care professionals and early childhood experts alike share the message that children (and adults) shouldn’t be exposed to screen time (that’s television AND any other electronic devices) for more than two hours a day. I feel confident that we are adhering to that recommendation and that Ev isn’t watching more than two hours a day and, on most days, not even coming close. But I’m starting to worry that we are instilling bad habits. It hasn’t been an issue until very recently because even if we wanted Ev to watch a program (so we could get something done or have some peace and quiet), it wouldn’t keep his attention for more than 10 minutes.

Ev went through a spell of waking up at 5:30. I physically couldn’t do much more than turn the TV on for him until I’d had an entire cup of coffee. He got interested in some PBS shows like Super Why and Daniel Tiger (at least they’re educational). But now Ev is requesting to watch TV. Last night after dinner, instead of wanting to play before his bath, he asked to watch TV, instead. I let him, but I immediately regretted it. I was thinking that he had played and been on his feet all day, who wouldn’t want to relax in front of the tube for a few minutes? But I don’t want to get him in the habit of watching TV before bed. Not only is it not the way I want him to end his day, I also worry that his recent nightmares may be related to watching TV.

But my screen time troubles don’t end there. Ev is quite savvy on the iPad, navigating to his “folder” and playing his games. While they are educational and he’s not spending more than two hours a day playing them, not even close, I still feel bad about it.

I called my friend who has a 3-year-old son and an (almost) 2-year-old daughter to find out what systems they have in place for controlling screen time, but they’re struggling, too. She shares my concerns, and her son is far more advanced on the iPad – he can actually find his way to Netflix or YouTube and watch videos! So after much deliberation and discussion with my husband, we have decided to keep doing what we are doing: keep the screen time at a minimum, continue to encourage active play and outside time and we will set more firm limits when it’s needed.