Elyse Lalonde has always called Saskatoon home. She started on the motherhood journey in the Summer of 2015 when she had her son. Elyse is a working mom, always seeking a fine balance in life with a busy toddler. As a MommyConnections “alumnus,” she enjoys socializing with moms and babies her son’s age. Elyse has always enjoyed writing and journaling, and hopes to share her experiences (good, bad, and sarcastic) with the online parenting community in Saskatoon
I’ve read and heard the research, the articles, the blogs, other parents, the “experts,” the doctors, the optometrists talk about screen time. None until the age of 2, and even then: set strong limits.
I get it. I totally understand the intend behind limiting screen time, to replace active behaviour with inactivity, to avoid maiming developing eyes and brains, reducing exposure to awful content– not just Paw Patrol, but often violent or sexist subject matter. And yet, the TV and computer had been a background to my maternity leave for a lot of hours, whether or not it was watched or not. PlayStation, Chromecast, iPads & iPhones can be found frequented in our household by all parties. I feel I’ve found great YouTube videos and shows on Netflix that exemplify good natured songs, lyrics and actions for a toddler. Yes, I will put on the occasional movie. Yes, my son plays with my iPhone (with me). Sometimes we take photos on Snapchat. We will take the iPad with us on long road trips, loaded with cartoons. He often asks to watch videos of himself as a baby. I will put on a TV show or two for 20-30 minutes every day after work, and often longer on the weekends. So, what’s the harm?
Well, lots can be harmful. And yet– none can be, too.
What is the purpose of sitting and watching something mindless and numbing for an hour or two, or more? I can recall the days before parenthood, where I could comfortably binge my way through a season or two of Orange is the New Black. And who am I kidding—there was nothing more to do while nursing a baby than to buckle down into a good episode of OITNB for 45 minutes. Oops, you’ve fallen asleep latched to one side and, hey, you’re not even really latched on anymore. Darn. I guess I’ll have to continue watching the next episode, and I suppose I’ll switch sides while I’m at it.
I used to be able to enjoy documentaries, or series on nature, psychology, or biographies. Ain’t nobody got time for that enjoyable, potentially useful content nowadays. Working full time only allows for a certain timeframe of the day to spend with my son and work in some “me” time. Ironic that I will put on a show for him after work, truly, in order for me to get supper ready. I find that, having run around and played all day, my son could use a 20-minute break from reality, not to mention that he doesn’t get TV at daycare, anyways, so I feel justified in providing the “time” for himself. When he was just over a year old and was newly within his first few weeks of daycare, I would sit him on my lap to watch a 20-minute YouTube show after work. This was our time. Our time to cuddle, relax, and enjoy each other before supper needed preparing. Now that he is a toddler, were I not to provide a break like this, our after-work hour prior to food being served would be, let’s just say, challenging at best.
Is screen time harmful? I would argue, yes, for a more personal reason. I am concerned about the role model I am being when it comes to screen time. There are times when I am completely and utterly addicted to my phone. More specifically, Facebook. It is an addiction. It is truly an addiction for me. There. I said it. Now I can work to mend this awful binding sensation to have to- No… NEED to check my phone every few minutes. Ironically, this compulsion started in the busiest period of my life: becoming a mother. I blame nursing and naptime on this whole situation. Nevertheless, my son has begun to take note of my head being down in my phone. Worst, habit, ever.
Not because it’s time taken for me to unwind or have a personal minute to veg out. It’s because I catch myself doing this in front of him, when I ought to be playing with him. I’m not setting that great of an example, to be honest, and when he asks to watch another episode of his favorite show, I tell him ‘No’ when I have no real justification for saying so, given the fact that I don’t say no to myself or my phone when I sometimes ought to.
I know that there is a balance to be found here. Do we need to be more active? Absolutely. This is always a goal to strive toward, as we live a terribly sedentary lifestyle, especially in winter. Yet, on an extreme end, I believe zero screen time has it’s challenges, too. Marketing to children is everywhere—on clothes, on television, on cereal boxes and on toys. Tell me where you haven’t seen a picture of Chase or Marshall, or any member of the Paw Patrol in the supermarket, or at Wal-Mart. And don’t get me started on Skye…. Where are the female leads at, y’know what I mean? But I digress. I believe that it’s best for parents to be in the know of what’s out there for “electronic entertainment” targeted at young children. Maybe sitting down with your kid to watch that Netflix show isn’t such a bad idea. It can be relaxing time taken together, with brief moments of education, laughter, enlightenment, and only the occasional questionable material (Peppa Pig?). I think screen time for our family is unavoidable, given the world we live and partake in. With really good quality shows & games, there are benefits. Limits are important and necessary, too (again, Peppa Pig). At the end of the day, we don’t fight it, we choose screen time. But in one way or another, we all win.