Ahhhh screen time. Glorious screen time. Overstimulating screen time. Relaxing screen time. Annoying screen time. Productive screen time. Ladies and gentlemen, screen time is everywhere no mater how far we try to run from it. We know we shouldn’t have too much of it as adults, and yet here we are – glued to our smartphones whether we want to be or not. Modern technology allows for us to have the freedom to work anywhere (yay for me being able to write this in a coffee shop), but it also means we are constantly connected. Like it or not, we live in a world where this is our new normal.
I was born in the 70’s (wow am I admitting that??), and as a proud Gen-X’er, I’ve definitely been known to preach about how I grew up climbing trees, skipping rope, playing TAG, and being outdoors until the street lights came on. I boldly assert that I am the last of a generation of kids that actually knew how to entertain ourselves without a screen being lit up. I nostalgically recall all of the things that made my childhood great with rose-coloured glasses on…but do you want to know what happens when I come off my preachy soapbox??? I remember what screen time was back in my day: watching back-to-back episodes of Sesame Street, watching hours of Scooby Doo, playing Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. for days straight, and engaging in screen-based learning activities like Speak-And-Spell. I also think that if I told my mother I was good at entertaining myself as a child, she would recall my frequent proclamations of boredom when she had to bring me into her office, and she would swiftly and fervently call bullshit on me. Hey guys: guess what. No matter what generation we’re from, we all had our version of screen time growing up.
My kids’ are young (2 and 4), so their current version of screen time is predominantly Netflix, along with the occasional game on their Leap Pad. Netflix is a regular staple in our house, and I don’t feel guilty about it for a second. So, now I’m going to attempt to walk the fine line of rationalizing vs. defending the value of Mama Netflix in my kids’ lives.
Let me start off by saying that when my kids are not spending time in front of a screen or entertaining themselves otherwise, they are physically active. I spent fifteen years growing up as a competitive swimmer, so you can be sure that my kids get in their share of activities like swimming and skating lessons. Additionally, we are fortunate to live in a neighbourhood where most amenities are walkable. So, my kids walk to school, daycare, and even to the grocery store with me when we need a couple of items. We take frequent trips to the park and splash pad, on foot. My son is only two, but he doesn’t like to sit in general, so we got rid of his stroller as soon as he entered the phase of tantruming when we tried to put him in it. So, I think I can safely say that our kids meet whatever activity criteria they should meet for their ages.
You want to know what happens as soon as we get home from school, an activity, or outdoor time though? Mama Netflix gets turned on, that’s what. Mama Netflix serves multiple functions in our household, but by and large, I like to refer to her as the Electronic Babysitter. See, if we walk into the house and I make any attempt whatsoever to be productive without Mama Netflix, I become the default kid referee for shit so asinine that it drives me to drink. If we walk into the house and enlist the assistance of Mama Netflix to entertain my kids, however, there’s a good chance that I might be able to get dinner on the go without excessive interference. There are always plenty of other options available for my kids to entertain themselves indoors – colouring, art, toys, books – all of which they will find their way to when they feel like it. Mama Netflix is often just background noise to my kids’ colouring and activities, but it’s still there.
Our morning routine also involves Mama Netflix. The kids wake up, and right after they grab their Flinstone Vitamin and juice, they watch Paw Patrol or some
weird random educational flick that my 2-year-old finds. While they enjoy Mama Netflix, once everyone’s basic needs are taken care of, I enjoy Mommy’s Quiet Time which involves me mindlessly scrolling through my phone for 15 minutes while I drink my morning coffee. After a couple of years of waking up before anyone else so I could actually have this time to myself, my family caught on and decided to wake up with me as soon as they hear me. So, since everyone now wakes up at the same time, I’ve trained my kids that Mommy’s Quiet Time is a non-negotiable in my house. This is actually not just for me – it’s Everyone’s Quiet Time – or a chance for everyone in the family to zone out and relax while we wake up. I equate this to my dad’s morning ritual when I was growing up: drinking coffee and reading the newspaper. I knew better than to disturb his morning ritual as a kid.
Here’s the other thing about Netflix (or TV, in general). Despite being able to watch hours and hours of TV on end as a kid, I barely watch any TV at all as an adult. In fact, I have to make a concerted effort to watch TV even once a week, because it is actually therapeutic and relaxing for my Type-A personality. I can see this in my kids as well – whether they spend their days with me, my husband, at school, or at daycare, they GO HARD. They come home looking like they’ve just run a marathon, and the best way to get them to relax, if not a hot bath, is Mama Netflix. The relaxation is obvious and almost instant – so it’s just not something I’m willing to remove from our routine just yet.
There are moms in this world that don’t believe in screen time, and that’s cool. You do you. It’s impressive – really. I’m sure your kids will turn out wonderful and intelligent. But, as long as Mama Netflix is around, she’s going to be around my house entertaining my kids, relaxing my kids, and keeping me sane. Because when I’m sane, I parent better. It’s science.