I started paying more attention to casual conversations about screen time and noticed that although parents openly joked about how much screen time their kids were getting, nobody actually mentioned a number of hours. Or if they did, the number was really low. I would see a Facebook post that said something like, “I’m done parenting for today. I put on an episode of ‘Paw Patrol’ and then bedtime!” Um…one episode is 22 minutes long. When it’s been a long week and I’m done parenting for the day, I turn on a feature-length movie.
I needed answers. So I crowdsourced through my Instagram. In an extremely unscientific poll I created in my Instagram Stories, parents said that their kids were getting more screen time than they were comfortable with, noting that the amount was generally one to three hours a day.
What was more interesting to me, though, were the parents who were brave enough to admit that their kids watched more than three hours of screens a day. The parents who admitted that their kids craved low-frills unboxing videos or recordings of other kids playing video games. The one brave mama who said that she left the TV on for so long one particular morning—while she relaxed and woke up slowly—that her kids took the initiative to turn it off. And guess what? She didn’t even feel guilty because the extra rest made her more active and involved with the kids that day. Imagine that.
A few weeks ago, I interviewed toddler expert Dr. Tovah P. Klein, author of How Toddlers Thrive and director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development, for an article I was writing. Attempting to conduct phone interviews with preschoolers in earshot generally makes me incredibly anxious. I would try to focus on my job while bracing myself for the embarrassment of an audible sibling fight or a potty request. At the end of the interview, Dr. Klein said, “You have children? Where are they? I don’t hear anything.”