Like most parents, I limit my children’s intake of television. Or, rather “screen time,” since “television” doesn’t capture the range – indeed, the pervasiveness – of devices my children, both under six, manipulate to access media. You know what I’m talking about. The phones, the iPads, the televisions, the tiny children’s computers. Just in terms of phones alone, between my parents, my husband and myself the children vacillate between four phones, each with its own access code and particular interests. (On my phone, my children prefer to watch videos of themselves, on repeat.) To negotiate access to all these devices, I use a single catchphrase of “screen” and the kids know that they are allotted a particular amount of screen time. (In case you’re wondering, I read up on the AAP guidelines and give them each an hour.)
But some days I can’t follow my own rules. And then I’m faced with a terrible and very real dilemma. It’s either SCREEN time, or SCREAM time. The children must engage a screen or someone is going to scream. The screen might be any screen – a phone, iPad, child’s toy or 48-inch television. The scream might also be anyone – a child, mother or even dog. The screen time or scream time dilemma comes with the predictability of a rainstorm. I can forecast it readily. For example, guests coming over for dinner + chores that didn’t get done + a small child that didn’t nap can lead directly to a screen/scream situation.
So despite the AAP, sometimes there is something to be said for giving in to the screen. To letting go. To smiling at your child, tucking a blanket around them and saying, “Let’s take a break and watch Curious George – a big one!”