There are a few things we all vow when we become mothers: only organic and unprocessed foods will ever cross our kids lips, we will never give them juice and television/ iPads will be off limits. Cue the crying laughing emoji. I mean, we try really hard at first, we even judge the moms who don’t try and can get pretty smug and holier-than-thou…until we’re not. Eventually all of our best intentions go out the window. For some it’s an epic explosion of Skittles and Dairy Queen, for others it’s Finding Dory three times in one day, whatever your own personal #momfail looks like, I get it. The first time I put my kid in front of an iPad, I was disappointed in myself.
Until I wasn’t.
First, let me give you some backstory: My siblings and I grew up legitimately addicted to TV. Like obsessed. Now, before anyone gets all judgy and starts cyber-bullying my parents, let me explain. It was the 80s, also known as the decade the sitcom got good, I mean, Diff’rent Strokes, The Facts of Life and that was just Saturday. Don’t even get me started on The Cosby Show and Silver Spoons! Full House! Small Wonder! Okay, I’ll stop, but if you’re over 35, you totally get it.
I’m one of four kids and we literally lived for TV. Didn’t matter if it was Knight Rider or Night Court, Saturday morning cartoons or Saturday Night Live, we watched it all. When it got a bit out of hand, my parents tried to curb it. They started slow and introduced a daily max. I think it was 2 hours, but it felt like 5 minutes. When that didn’t work, they locked the TV. Remember this was the 80s, so the “lock” was literally a metal keyhole like you’d see on a front door, encased in some kind of wooden contraption that I think my dad built. Let’s just say it took my brother a bobby pin and about 15 seconds to obliterate those “parental controls.” Thirty-something years later, two of the four kids make their living producing television and another one went to Princeton. So clearly TV didn’t ruin us, I actually think it enriched our lives.
So when my son was born in 2012, a study had just come out suggesting that kids should avoid ALL SCREEN TIME until the age of 2. Duh… But we were showered with Baby Einstein DVDs and told about all sorts of apps and baby shows that we should download. I was pretty hard and fast about not letting him watch anything (well, if he was in the room while Breaking Bad or Keeping up with the Kardashians played in the background… he wasn’t actually facing the screen, so it didn’t count.) and then, sometime around 18 months, he stopped eating and had no interest in sitting in his high chair. He was a small kid with a mom obsessed with his food intake – so when he went on a full hunger strike, I panicked. Someone suggested a YouTube show, this animated alphabet train. Suddenly the kid would sit still for 30 minutes and shove his face with avocado and wild salmon. It was seriously a game changer. And guess what else changed? My tiny babe learned his alphabet. Like, not just the ABC song, he could point to every letter and number and identify it before he turned two!
Now don’t get me wrong, we use it sparingly and we always monitor what they’re watching.
There’s a time and a place (hello, transatlantic flight). Sure, sometimes they watch more than they should, and no, it’s not always a show about letters and numbers, but they gotta live, right? And even if TV isn’t making them smarter, they sound a hell of a lot smarter thanks to the British accents they’ve picked up from their besties, Peppa Pig and those those damn Octonauts.