Screen Time for Kids :: Friend or Foe?

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Picture this: it’s a nice late spring morning. It’s sunny, slightly breezy, the birds are chirping, and there’s the smell of freshly cut grass. Imagine the perfect scene for a morning walk around the neighborhood.

But then the picturesque setting is tainted with a shriek from your five-year-old as she screams, “OMG!” and bursts into giggles.

First of all, I wasn’t aware that my five-year-old daughter had adopted a preteen slang vocabulary. Secondly, I started wondering why my husband and I ever let her get so comfortable with a cell phone that she would FaceTime her cousin during our morning walk.

Love/Hate Relationship with Screens

I have a love/hate relationship with screens as it relates to my three daughters (age five, three, and two). Just a few years ago, I was the mom who said my kids would NEVER have their face in an iPad. Instead, they would get their entertainment from books and good old Mother Nature.

Yeah, well, that was a lofty goal–especially since we’re currently living in a shelter-in-place quarantine event.

I admit, my husband and I tried to keep some semblance of structure when the girls’ daycare shut down amid the COVID-19 situation at the end of March. I’m pretty sure we made it through two full days of a regimented schedule.

Survival Mode

But that regimented schedule wasn’t sustainable. I work from home, so I was limited in how much I could help my husband. He ended up taking most of the responsibility during those crazy two months. He did the best he could. We all did. And in survival mode, we let them watch screens.

We did try to focus on educational programming like ABCmouse.com and streamed videos recommended by their daycare. But there were times when we’d let them watch what they wanted on Youtube Kids or DisneyPlus. And somehow, they found (and downloaded) no less than 397 kid-friendly games to play.

Then came the Kids Messenger app. I didn’t even know there was such a thing before coronavirus. Now, my five-year-old has more Facebook friends than I do. Okay, that’s an exaggeration since she doesn’t technically have a Facebook page. But the Kids Messenger app is connected to Facebook, which automatically makes me think she’s about 14.

I have to admit, though, it is kind of cute to hear her FaceTiming with her little friend Noah. Although I’ve had to remind her a few times that she’s NOT allowed to call boys without my knowledge/consent.

Have I Failed As a Mother?

So . . . back to this morning walk. I’m irritated at the fact that she said, “OMG.” I’m also thinking, “Why can’t she go 45 minutes without a darn screen? Have I failed as a mother because I can’t get my kid to turn it off?”

But as I heard her laughing again with her cousin that she only sees maybe once a year, I softened. Yeah, perhaps we overuse screens in our house. But at the same time, she’s more connected to far away family than I ever was as a kid.

Deeper Connections

She talks to her grandparents every single day, which is something I know they treasure. She does get some educational benefits out of some of the things she watches. So maybe it’s not all bad.

I should probably draw the line at some point. You don’t need to talk to your cousin to get through a 45 minute walk with your family, Miss Thang!

Also . . . should I be worried that my two-year-old knows how to unlock my iPhone?!

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Jennifer W
A North Carolina native, Jennifer has called Colorado Springs, CO, Lynchburg, VA, New Orleans, LA, and Charleston, SC home since graduating from Elon University in 2003. She has spent time as a journalist, event planner, and sports information director. Now, the Birmingham newcomer is a full-time marketing professional and owner of Birmingham Stork Lady, a sign rental service dedicated to welcoming new babies home. Of all the hats Jennifer wears, her most important roles are as a wife, mother, daughter, and sister. She has been married to her husband Mike for six years, and together they have two daughters: a spunky 3 year old named Brooklyn, who is obsessed with Peppa Pig, books, and pigtails; and 18-month-old Blakely, whose nickname is Smiley (she loves watching her big sister!). As if that weren't enough excitement, the family is expecting Baby Girl #3 in April 2018. Jennifer also has a personal blog, www.beagleandbaby.com, named for her family's sweet five-year-old beagle, Cooper.

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