Okay, before I dive into this, I want to make something perfectly clear. This post is in no way meant to be shamey or judgmental. All I’m doing is sharing our families experience of cutting back screen time. This could look different for other families, and not all kids are as susceptible to the effects of screen time. Just wanted to state that at the top.
Also, for the purpose of this post, “Screen Time” is the iPad/Tablet. We didn’t watch a ton of TV.
As I’ve mentioned before, O has BIG emotions. It’s funny, for the first 3 months of his life, O was the absolute chillest baby. He slept like a log, wasn’t terribly fussy. For lack of a better term, he was the “perfect” baby.
Then around 3 months, everything changed. He started making strange VERY early on and only wanted to be held by me or Boppa. He didn’t like being put down, nothing would hold his attention for more than 2-3 minutes (seriously) and when he wanted something, BOY did you know.
Around the 15 month mark, we had W and it was a big challenge trying to balance the two despite how much help I had. The one thing that would keep O occupied was either the Wiggles or the little tablet that we had. I honestly don’t even remember the first time we gave it to him, he just had it.
This little magic machine allowed me to have a few moments to myself while W was sleeping (like, I don’t know, eat something or have a coffee). Sometimes, the only way we could get him to eat something other than Crunchies was to have him watch the tablet. (I KNOW OK, I KNOW)
As time went on, I reached for the tablet more often than I care to admit. I was drowning and honestly, just needed the distraction for him. W wasn’t as interested, but he also was (is) attached to my hip.
Every time I did reach for it, I would justify it by thinking “Oh, I need to make dinner” or “Oh, he hasn’t had it that much today” and honestly, you kind of loose track of the time they spend on them.
The tablets became part of our routine. Getting up in the morning, give them tablets so I could make their breakfast and get ready for the day myself. They’re up by 5:30-6 and despite how early I get up, it’s like they hear me and were up at the same time. When I started back at work, they were only 2.5 and 12 mo.
Honestly, it was about survival. I have no regrets about that period. Plus, I will say, they learned a lot of songs, counting and colours from them. They were watching SOME decent videos.
However, the boys got older, and Os tantrums were getting worse and more explosive. In the back of my head, I knew the tablets had something to do with it, but I wasn’t ready to fight that fight. I was still exhausted.
Then, one day, O had his worst one yet (which I talk about here) and I was done. After reaching out to my amazing IG community, the answer was pretty clear: Pay attention to the amount of time he spends on his tablet and see if you notice a pattern.
And wow…did I ever. If we watched a couple episodes of Paw Patrol on the TV in the morning, he was fine. But watch more that 15 mins on the tablet…game over.
It hit me like a ton of bricks. Bring on the Mom Guilt, the shame. We were those parents, using the tablets as a babysitter. I think it hit me so hard because I knew, in my heart, that was a lot of the problem. I just chose to ignore it.
So, J and I had a chat and decided it was time to cut WAY WAY WAY back. No more tablets at the table. No more tablets in the morning. No more tablets before bed.
When they did get them, we set the kitchen timer for 15 minutes. When the timer went off, they had to turn them off or else they lost all their privileges.
It was fucking hard. Those things are like a drug to them. A LOT of tears, a lot of upsetness, a lot of anger. It was so hard for us not to throw in the towel. But I kept thinking WWMD (what would Meemaw do) and we stuck to our guns.
It’s been about a month since we did this and here is what we noticed:
- Drastic drop in tantrums/meltdown – yes, they are still there (he IS 3 after all) but the length, the level and the emotions have come way down
- More imaginative play – Both of them are playing longer and more imaginatively by themselves. I’m sure part of this is tied to age, but I’ve noticed a substantial difference since limiting their devices.
- Eating better – it’s that whole thing, when you’re paying attention to what you’re eating, you feel more satisfied. Believe it or not, since taking tablets away at dinner time, O has been much more adventurous with food.
- They’ve stopped asking for them – SAY WHAT?! I know. I mean, sure. If they see them, they want to play on them. But we put them up high so “out of sight, out of mind” and they no longer ask for them in the morning.
- Playing together nicely (mostly) – Listen, they still fight, they still bicker (they’re siblings after all) but outside of that, they are playing so well together. Again, could be the fact they are growing up, but it definitely had improved.
- I’m on my phone less too – I figure, I can’t very well tell the boys they can’t have screen time and then be on my phone in front of them. So, I try to limit the amount of time I spend scrolling through IG.
HOW ANNOYING IS THAT?! Honestly, I was secretly hoping on some level that nothing would change and I would be able to say “SEE IT WASN’T THAT” but here we are.
Again, I wouldn’t change anything before this. My kids are 15mo apart. It was about survival or else literally nothing would have gotten done. We did what we did because that’s what worked for us, until it didn’t.
So – have you gone through something similar? Tell me what you noticed!