5 Mothers On House Rules About Screen Time

We spent Sunday morning with friends in Brooklyn having brunch with their teensy tiny infant.  We sat Bodie at the head of the table with books and cars and fruit and all the makings of an entertained toddler.  But it wasn't happening for us.  So within fifteen minutes, I had to pull out the iPad if we were going to last through this meal with some semblance of adult dialog.  I did that thing where within one minute I had made several explanations of our usual screen time limits and how long we'd lasted before Bodie was even interested in screens.  They likely didn't care but of course, I had the flash of failure as I could see the internal gears going in their new parent brains committing to never having a child whose first ten words included Peppa (as in the pig).  So I had to ask my friends - honestly, what are your policies? When do you flex?  Here are the perspectives across this panel of five:

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Jacqui, mom to 1, New York, NY

My kid loves Sesame Street.  She has learned so much from it.  It’s hard to hate it.  I have a feeling she will be counting and saying her ABC’s pretty soon (she’s already got the tune down) and it will all be thanks to Elmo and Dracula.  The only way I can cut her nails is if I turn on the TV so when I do, it’s generally Sesame Street.  She could watch all day long but we only put it on about 2-3 times a week when we need to get something done, cut her nails or manage when she’s not feeling the best.  I really do try not to put it on too much but I have a feeling my husband relies heavily on it when I'm out of town (hi hunny).  Sometimes she begs for Elmo and we crumble but most of the time we distract her or take her out and she forgets all about it.

About once a month we will put on a kids movie and she will watch every second of it. I have also discovered that long trips in the car are completely fine with an iPad and episodes of Sesame Street. This is going to be very handy for our next 22-hour flight (I hope).

Betsy, mom to 1, Venice, CA

Ugh - screen time is a daily struggle! Before she turned two I always felt so guilty about allowing it but sometimes there are desperate situations where it's truly a life saver, like travel or a long " grown-up" dinner out at a nice restaurant. Now that she's two I don't feel as guilty about it but I do still try and limit it and break it up into smaller chunks throughout the day. It's crazy to see how they get sucked in so easily!

Lauren, mom to 2, Long Island, NY

The rule in our house is 1 show a day if everyone's on good behavior!  Our first one started watching T.V. at 12 months old for a maximum of 20 minutes at a time. Our second was allowed to watch when he was born but he was never very interested.

I have a bunch of apps and games that I would recommend as a speech therapist.  The ones that are top of mind are Peek-a-Boo Barn for babies and Mother Goose Club (on youtube).

Tali, Mom to 1, New York, NY

We first showed him a show at around a year old. We use screen time when he is (a) sick and needs to chill and not run around OR when I need to give him medicine when he is sick (b) when we travel on a plane or long car drive (c) when we want to do the odd long dinner or lunch with friends and he is an unwilling participant.

The rules around using screen time are that we need to be with him and that only we can let him do it not the nanny. We want to make sure it's very limited as he seems to get really addicted to it!

Marissa, mom to 2, New York, NY

The boys are allowed a show at night and occasionally one in the morning. The rule is that they have to agree on the show or they don't get one. We don't allow ipads or phones at the table. We decided early on that we wanted our kids to learn to eat at the table and the only way that would happen was if we were strict about this policy. There are many times we are at a restaurant and I see other tables where the parents are blissfully enjoying their meal, sipping wine and engaging in adult conversation while the children are glued to the screen and I am momentarily jealous, however I know the only way they will learn to behave and participate in conversation is to model and teach them.