Swearing off screen time: The worst diet ever

Yeah, yeah. If kids watch anything on a screen, their brains will melt or whatever. But Hayley DeRoche REALLY does not want to read that same book aloud for the 39th time today.

Photo by: edans

“Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age two. A child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.”

You know what sucks? That statement right there from the American Academy of Pediatrics about media diets.

Imagine a lazy Sunday after you’ve worked all week, and now the time is nigh…time to entertain the tot. Maybe your Sunday looks a lot like ours…

  • 8:00 AM: We have a whole day ahead of us, so much to do! Oh…you want to read this same book nine times in a row.
  • 9:00 AM: Let’s go for a walk!
  • 9:30 AM: We’re back! You want to read that same book again nine more times.
  • 10:00 AM: Welp, I guess that’s it. How about blocks, can we get you interested in those for, like, a couple hours?
  • 1:00 PM: Naptime!
  • 1:30PM: You don’t want to nap, do you?…What if read that same book nine more times?

Let’s be real. It’s cold outside. I could craft things, but I’m not very crafty and neither is my 18-month-old. How about books? When I read Duck and Goose Find a Pumpkin 38 times per day, my brain becomes the pumpkin. I try the obvious thing, hiding the book, but it does no good. My child is inconsolable and I feel bad because what kind of book-hiding monster have I, the professional librarian, become? I don’t think that was the goal of the Academy.

But it’s the Right Thing To Do, right?

I remind myself sometimes that I am Doing the Right Thing. I sit on the couch, thinking of how this is the right thing to do, but damn, is it boring. My friends are probably all cozy in their houses watching Mary Poppins and drinking cocoa and giggling, and here I am, the No Fun Parent, alone on the couch in front of a dead TV watching my child play with wooden blocks. The Moral High Ground is a lonely, boring place. Nobody likes the Moral High Ground parent, not even the Moral High Ground parent! Who wants to be That Parent who’s like, “We don’t let our daughter watch screens. We only let her watch organic carrots grow in the garden.”

I realize pediatric recommendations are there for a reason. I’m willing to accept that kids learn best through real person-to-person interactions, like I’m willing to accept other professional recommendations from people who went to school longer than I did.1 But it doesn’t mean the recommendation is easy to live with. It doesn’t mean I enjoy reading Duck and Goose Find a Cure for Cancer every one of those 38 times.

I think plenty of people want to watch TV with their kids to enjoy an experience together, not to replace those real learning interactions. I don’t think everyone is sitting their kid in front of the TV and saying, “Here, learn this way, we’re never reading Duck and Goose Find the Holy Grail again.” One doesn’t have to replace the other. Am I doing legitimate harm if I put on Mary Poppins while I pop clothes in the washer, time I wouldn’t be using to necessarily teach her anything person-to-person? Or am I supposed to be letting her help wash and fold as an enrichment experience? What if I don’t and that time isn’t spent actively learning anything with the TV off? I’m not being snarky, I genuinely want to know.

This weekend I’ll probably find myself sitting on the couch fantasizing about what would happen if Mary Poppins just magically started playing with a snap of my fingers.

I probably wouldn’t turn it off, right thing to do be damned.

Until then, Duck and Goose are calling.

It’s something about a pumpkin.

  1. Vaccines. 
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Hayley DeRoche

Hayley DeRoche is a librarian with a penchant for cardigans and corduroys. Luckily, her professional life revolves more around technology & information than fashion.

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