• J Mess


I'm really making myself sound like a bad mother lately.

We're always told about the touchy subjects to avoid bringing up in mixed company. You know, those topics on which most people have very deeply held and possibly inflammatory opinions that will just derail any polite conversation and make everyone uncomfortable. So basically just don't go there. I've always known them as sex, religion, and politics. But I'd like to propose adding another (besides pacifiers.) Screen time.

I had no idea how controversial this topic was until my mother started sending me 5 articles a day about the harms of screen time on small children. Far be it from me to dispute anyone's clinical research on the matter. I am after all a woman of fact, daughter of a scientist, and reader of clinical studies for a living. But I'm also a busy mom who is blessed with a little bit of precious quiet time every time I take out the P-A-D. And Nathan gets so elated to see it that he does a little dance and smiles like I'm about to give him the most amazing gift.

And I'm weak people... I'm so weak. When given the choice between the shameful scorn of my mother and Nathan not tearing apart the house for a bit because he's happily enjoying PinkFong videos... I'll let you guess which one I choose. But I get it. And he certainly doesn't watch them all day, or in his high chair at mealtime, or in his crib. In fact recently I've tried to start hiding the pad but unfortunately for me, I put it in a bright yellow case so that proved difficult. Because he is obsessed with it and once he sees it, the jig is up.

I'm not saying this thing is a lifesaver, but I'm not saying it's not.

We went out to dinner a few months ago with a couple other families and I took note of a very interesting moment. I looked up from my plate, and every child at the table, 5 in total, were watching their iPads. Mine included. I didn't feel one way or the other about it, I just thought it was interesting. Because minutes earlier my child was screaming and trying to climb out of the high chair, and now he was smiling and sitting quietly. And I was enjoying my meal, and my evening out with my husband and friends. And if you're silently judging me right now, that's okay. I'm sure there were plenty of judgey Judys in the restaurant and internet trolls abound on this topic. But just remember, when in the trenches, you do what you have to do to survive.

We waited a little bit to see if we could distract him by offering him other toys or crayons or even paci, but he wasn't having it so out came the pad. I really do try to make it a last resort, even though I know it is always a sure winner. This was the first time we'd deployed it from our kid-distracting-arsenal outside of our house, so I was not prepared when in a frantic moment of Nathan screaming excitedly to be given iPad, I realized the videos he liked to watch necessitated WiFi access. I immediately panicked. It was too late. He'd already seen the pad and there was no unseeing it. In my distress, while failing at trying to convince Nathan to use a coloring app instead of watching his beloved videos, I heard our friend Steve (OMG man you made the blog!), like the voice of an experienced-father-angel yelling across the table asking if our cell phone had a hot spot. Clearly those of us new to the art of child iPad distraction have no idea what we're doing. That was almost a disaster.

Nathan has his own iPad. Don't freak out. We didn't purchase one specifically for him. We let him use my old one because I don't care if he drops it or spills milk all over it, and that it's filled with little kid apps. But that means that my iPad is off limits. As we like to say around here "no touchy." Which usually means he does the exact opposite, because whenever he sees anything resembling a screen he goes nuts. And not surprisingly, I once caught him dragging mine around the living room, and there was lots of "touchy-ing" before I could successfully wrestle it away from him. Which leads me to why we're all here today. Oh you're not here? You're at work? Or on your couch? Or on the train? Not me. I am in the Apple store. Why? Because Nathan permanently locked me out of my iPad. Well, that's one way to eliminate screen time, for me...

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