Every time I hear a mom say the words “screen time,” part of me rolls my eyes, and another part of me cringes in shame. Oh no, I think to myself, how virtuous of a screen time limit do they have in their house? 2 hours? An hour?! And then I think, please don’t let them ask me please don’t let them ask me please don’t let them ask me.
Because the answer is, a lot. Some days, none at all. Some days, hours. It’s seasonal of course. Just like my red wine intake, it creeps up as temperatures drop and tapers when the sunshine beckons. But even on nice days, we often have a good amount of screen time. [Note: for those of you who are thinking, “What the hell is ‘screen time?’” the answer is that it is an annoying phrase meaning the combined amount of time a kid is in front of a screen of any kind—TV, video game, computer, Leapster, etc.]
But here’s what I have to say about it. Screen time is awesome. Yesterday afternoon, we were out front weeding the garden. Well, I was weeding. They were alternating between squirting each other with the hose and using my spare trowels to redistribute the dirt and mulch in the garden. My daughter suddenly calls out in delight, “Mommy, look, it’s a dragonfly!” I look up, thinking, what are the odds? But yes, it was a dragonfly, or at least looked like one to my entomologically inexpert eye. You know where she learned that? That’s right. TV. And that diminutive frenemy to all moms, Dora, has taught my kids more words in Spanish than I even know. Dora’s slightly less annoying cousin has them correcting me when I imprecisely call something a parrot. “Mommy, that’s a macaw.” And even the less educational Bubble Guppies have something to teach my kids. Thanks to that show, they learned to hit the crash cymbal at the end of a run of drumming, and then say, “I totally rock!” I mean, come on. That’s awesome. It never would have occurred to me to teach them that.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m good with putting some logical limits on TV-watching. At this point, after being played in our house for the 3,267th time, Cars the movie no longer has any redeeming educational value. But let’s say we’ve turned off the TV, are my kids really not allowed to go screw around on the computer? They’re not even four, and they’re more comfortable with a mouse in their hands than a crayon. They can type their names, play games on Nick Jr.’s website, and independently navigate YouTube. (Side note: It’s incredible how quickly one can navigate from funny and cute Mario Brothers videos to violent or disturbingly sexual Mario Brothers videos with lots of swearing. Do not let your children independently navigate YouTube. Just a little piece of advice from me to you.) Anyway, my point is that in the world they will live in, they will need these skills. Well, probably not the mouse, but they are both also shockingly adept at working my Droid phone. They took to the scroll and zoom gestures much faster than I did. They could probably kick my butt at Angry Birds if I let them play it, which I don’t. Not because of screen time, but because I don’t want to be constantly looking for my phone in the cracks of the sectional.
My kids get plenty of exercise. We go outside whenever we can, even in the snow when it totally sucks and it takes an hour to get them ready for 30 minutes outside. When it’s rainy for a few days, we’ll put on music and dance ourselves silly in the living room, or put on boots and raincoats and go stomp in puddles. Or sometimes they’ll just start running around and around in circles for no reason. It’s all good. And we get plenty of parent-kid time—gardening, playing soccer outside, making music, doing art, or even snuggling in front of the awful horrible TV. I agree that kids shouldn’t spend their entire day glued to the TV, computer, and Wii. But if those activities are interspersed with independent quiet play, some physical activity, and lots of good family time, I think it’s OK, and maybe even more than OK. I know that my kids, since giving up their naps, need some down-time in the afternoon. They need to lie on the couch and veg out. Mommy needs some down-time too, to fold laundry or start dinner or write a blog about how TV is awesome. And it is. TV is awesome.