I will never forget my pediatrician’s fateful do-or-die advice at my son’s 9 month check-up. I had asked about co-sleeping, breastfeeding, babysitting, crying-it-out, napping, feeding solids, sun exposure, eye contact, bathing vs. showering, first words, crawling, walking, teething, socks or no socks, and over-mothering. He said: “Whatever you decide to do is fine. Just don’t ever let him watch TV.”
What?? I just nodded my head. I had gone in worried that he’d think I was crazy and walked out thinking he was crazy. Of all the controversial concerns we have about toddlers, TV was the last thing I was worried about – and to be honest, it still blows my mind that people worry about it so much.
For me, I’m actually glad that I let my son watch TV. In fact, I think we’re both better for it. So before you rip your hair out trying to avoid the inevitable, consider these reasons for giving into a little screen time:
It calms him down when he is upset.
Sometimes toddlers just need a moment to reset. I know as an adult, this certainly happens for me, so why shouldn’t it happen for them? When my son is having a tantrum (especially if it’s because we’re transitioning activities…like saying goodbye to a playdate), after I’ve calmed him down, I will often see if he just wants to watch a little TV. I don’t use it to calm him down, I do that part on my own. But once he’s happy in my lap, it’s a great way to get him to move on from what he was upset about. And after about 2 minutes, this happens…
He does other things while watching.
It is pretty rare that my little guy just sits and stares at the tube. Usually, it ends up being in the background while he plays with his toys. It just becomes white noise while he stretches his imagination.
It distracts him during long car rides.
While I was pregnant, my husband and I decided to take a babymoon to Disney World. When we got on the flight, I expected screams and chatter, kids running up and down the aisle, and tons of mouse ears poking over seats. Instead what I saw was the reflective glow of little faces looking down at colorfully padded iPads…and silence. It was almost a year before I really understood how absolutely amazing those little things are…and why certain parents opt to embrace the digital distraction. Now, when we go on long trips, whether by car or plane, we know there’s a way that we can keep him happy while he’s pinned down in his seat. It is a HUGE relief for any traveling parent.
He is well-behaved in restaurants.
If traveling in a car is a struggle, imagine that scenario but with 100 people watching you. At least in the car you can let them scream if you have to. At a restaurant, no way. People already judge you just for bringing your kids out. The second our son gets fussy in a restaurant, we hand over a phone or ipad and buy ourselves a whole lot of extra quiet time. And instead of glares from other patrons, we get people stopping by to comment on our well-behaved son…or how lucky we are to have technology working for us. 😉
Our children’s lives will be intertwined with technology.
Look, our kids are going to have technology everywhere they turn. And not in the way that we experience it. Their little brains will develop the ability to manage multiple technological platforms at once. Trying to avoid screen time in this day and age is just crazy! TV in the background is teaching their brain to multitask. It’s their life now – we don’t need to keep fighting it.
He is learning from it.
I’m not recommending you turn on Wile E. Coyote to watch him be bludgeoned by a boulder while The Roadrunner skirts by with a cigar hanging out of his mouth. Those days are over. But Daniel Tiger learning to be patient while his mom goes to the bathroom? Ummmm…that’s something I’m happy for my son to learn. Shows are different these days. Not only are they learning the alphabet, numbers, and vocabulary, but they’re increasingly learning life skills like potty training, getting a new sibling, and sharing.
He enjoys it.
You’ve been an amazingly exceptional boy all day? Sure, you can watch Chuggington! You’re so adorable, I can’t handle it? Ok, let’s watch Thomas the Train…again. It’s pretty much impossible to turn down the satisfaction that accompanies making your child happy. So why not just let them enjoy themselves a bit?
It helps me when no one else is around.
Let’s be real. Yes, I made the commitment to watch my kids full-time. But even a supermom like me (sarcasm) needs to go to the bathroom periodically…or cook or clean or fold laundry or stare into a silent wall for a moment. It’s ok for me to get a little break too.
We all watched TV and turned out just fine.
You may disagree with me, but I think I turned out alright. And what may be wrong certainly didn’t come from watching too much TV. 🙂 In fact, I’m not sure I know a single person that didn’t grow up with it and doesn’t still watch it regularly. My son is a normal kid and I’m happy to let him be just that.