I had always thought of myself as someone who doesn’t follow the crowd. As the type of woman who blazed her own path, made her own destiny. I was a lone wolf. Who was also a unicorn. Who moonlighted as a succubus on days when she was feeling grumpy.
Then I met my stupid adorable future husband and we started dating and everyone said “get married!” and we were like “ok.” Then after we got married, everyone said “have a kid!” and we were all “sure, who needs a disposable income?” Then after we had a kid, everyone said “have another one!” and so we did mostly because we were too tired to think of reasons not to.
Then, when we were drowning in tiny, adorable, self-destructive gingers, those same people had the audacity to tell our exhausted, disgusting, overwhelmed selves that we couldn’t plop those kids down in front of a TV so we could get a moment’s peace in the diaper-stained tsunami that was now our lives.
Oh, and not just TV. This was a moratorium on all screens. Phones. Tablets. Laptops. Laptops that turned into tablets.
“No screens! It will destroy their brains!” everyone shouted while sending torch and pitchfork gifs to our phones.
And that’s where I finally broke with the crowd. Because do you know how long a day is when you are stuck at home with small children? It’s 57 hours. And that’s just before noon. I had no idea what to do with them. I’d read books, I’d build forts, I’d play hide and seek even though they hid in the same damn place every. single. time. (Spoiler alert: It was inside the fort). Then I’d look up and realize 12 minutes had passed. Which is when I would pull down all the window shades and put on “Sesame Street” with the volume super low, the kids pushing their faces against the television in order to actually hear Elmo.
“It doesn’t count if no one but me knows” I’d whisper to myself while creepily rubbing my hands together villain-style.
Look, I know too much screen time can have negative effects on children. I’m not saying everyone is wrong. I’m just saying they need to acknowledge that the alternative can be just as awful. That without any screen time, everything devolves into scream time. Mostly by the parents.
Kids are more than capable of destroying their brains the old-fashioned screen-less way. Take this innocent little exchange between my kids I overheard the other day:
6-year-old: Ok, so put on your cape…
6-year-old: And then I’m going to push you off the bed…
6-year-old: And we’ll see if you can fly!
Or this one…
6-year-old: Did you get them?
Me: Get what?
Me: GET WHAT?
Me: *gets up and confiscates the big pair of scissors and three steak knives the 3-year-old is hiding behind her back*
6-year-old: Well how are we supposed to play pirates now?
And for everyone who claims that video games make kids violent, I’m not necessarily disagreeing. But I am saying that so do sticks. My children are constantly picking up sticks and using them to beat each other relentlessly. This usually escalates until they are using full on tree limbs to bash each others skulls in, which is when the park magically closes and we have to head home.
The thing is, sometimes you need screen time to make sure your children stay alive. To make their savage little butts sit down for a hot minute and kill pixels instead of each other.
And sure, maybe it will eventually turn their brains to mush. I, of all people, am likely to find out considering both of my kids can quote the entire “Princess Bride” movie verbatim. But honestly, have you ever heard a 3-year-old yell “He didn’t fall!? Inconceivable!”? I’d argue it’s cute enough to warrant a reasonable amount of brain mush.
In the end, I think, it’s all about balance. Let your kids play on their tablet guilt-free. Enjoy the quiet and peaceful non-homicidal atmosphere without beating yourself up. And then have them turn the tablets off so they can use them to hit each other over the head.