all the screen times: a look back

Ages 1-8: There was one screen in our house. It played Sesame Street and Barney in the mornings, All My Children in the afternoon, and Arthur and Wishbone after school.

8: We brought home our first desktop computer from SAM’s club. We could play on paint, some very slow cd-roms and a few other pre-loaded games. Dad buys flight simulator and an enormous joystick for himself. We get a family email account. It takes numerous tries to log onto the Internet and mom inadvertently kicks us off whenever the phone (corded, in the kitchen) rings. Zoom (zoom a zoom a zoom a zoom!) was added to the after school rotation. 

9-14: More of the same. Lots of begging for computer games and then pleading with the computer to load them and not crash (prompting a 10-minute restart process.) Sim city. Roller coaster tycoon. Mavis Beacon. NBA 2003. Back then the issue was not so much how to limit screen time as how to fairly distribute the time between your three children before the hard drive overheated and shut down and they were all losing their minds. 

14-18: Some of my classes begin to require that papers are typed or handed in via floppy. And who could forget the dawn of PowerPoint? One of those bad boys could easily take 10 hours to rig up, all those transition effects and sounds and clip art choices. Our poor teachers. On the plus side, we finally get cable and I rush home every afternoon to Gilmore girls, 7th Heaven and Full House. We set the babies down  in front of Baby Einstein videos and they stare up at those spinning, singing, lit up toys and puppets like they contain the secrets of the universe. 

16-18 (Red Cross certified babysitter extraordinaire, at your service): I encounter my first screen-time limiting mom. “Only one episode of Thomas, that’s it!” After it ends he freaks out and full out tantrums when I try to take him outside and so he spends the rest of the day terrorizing the family dog and playing on his leap pad.

21 (extremely well-informed and under-practiced college student): This semester we’re discussing the impact of the whole environment on a child. Cognitive development is happening so fast in those early years and recent studies show that screen time in young children can actually inhibit brain growth. Even more alarming is how companies are using television and app ads to market to these young kids who are completely incapable of discerning the difference between tv show and reality. And don’t event get me started on the number of violent images a child will see on screen by age 10… Basically, allowing your child to watch television is tantamount to neglect and maybe even abuse. What is with parents these days. Do they even care?!

23 (full time nanny of three): Them: “It’s OVahhh!” Me: “What? Your most favorite and most annoying show that guarantees 24 minutes of blessed silence is already finished? I haven’t even started cleaning up from lunch or eaten anything  or done any amount of the social media engagement necessary to recharge me for the remaining  5 hours of our day!” Them: “It’s ok Julianne. We will watch another if you want us to…”

24 (obsessive pregnant lady): Screen time could basically kill our children. They will become brain-dead little zombies and never develop the ability to imagine or think creatively or learn to read. They’ll grow up to be bratty teenagers with no attention span, unable to get jobs, living with us into eternity! And no thank you, we will not accept any of those toys with lights or sounds. Our kids are going to learn to amuse themselves with the same toys children have been playing with for millennia. And by that of course I mean the very best non-toxic, naturally treated, dye-free, developmentally appropriate textiles we can urge our friends and family to buy for them because that stuff isn’t cheap and we ar broke. 

25 (worn down mother of almost-1-year-olds): I mean. Daniel Tiger has so many catchy songs and it’s basically endorsed by mister Rogers himself (<–lie) and it’s on pbs so it’s probably subliminally helping kids to get smarter. And I know there’s that whole no screens before two thing but they’re almost one and if I was going to allow an hour a day at 2, 30 minutes of cheerful educational programming at 1 doesn’t sound so awful, right? And they just love it so much and look, I made a whole dinner while they watched it! And you know, times are changing and screens are everywhere and I can’t shield them from all the dangers of the world forever. They’re going to have to learn media discernment at some point, right? No time like the present!

26 (nostalgic Christmas mom): But we just have to show them all the classics! I can’t believe they don’t have the attention span for this yet. It’s only 90 minutes! Look guys, Santa! Frosty! The island of misfit toys!

26 (needs to impress her mom, mom): Now, we only let them watch Sesame or Daniel Tiger in the morning after breakfast while we get things cleaned up. It just really bothers me that you guys have the tv on all day. (<– gross exaggeration) And no Caillou! Or disney! Or anything with commercials!

26 (we have to survive this 15 hour travel day mom): Bless you, Peek-a-boo Barn and seats with personal tv-screens. 

26 (exhausted home sweet home mom): me: “Isn’t it wonderful to be home? Finally back in our own space! Our own beds!” Rowan, refusing to be unbuckled from his car seat which is now planted right in the middle of the living room. He’s grumpy and confused but then he sees it. “Ohhhhhh! TeeeVeeeeee!!!!! ” He screams to be unbuckled and then runs toward it with loving, open arms. 

26 (the next day): Drew: “Rowan, who are the people in our family?” Rowan, pointing as he names us: “Mama. Papa. TeeVeeee!” (Sorry, Eva-girl.)

And so began the great daytime tv fast of 2016.

(Number of screen minutes spent typing up this little jog down conviction lane? Probably like 300. I even started typing it while perched upon the lidded toilet seat as I halfway supervised bathtime. I deserved a tub poop for that, but instead Rowan learned how to screw and unscrew the cap of an old bottle of bubble bath and Evelyn practiced pouring water from one little bottle into another. (hello fine motor skills!) They’re basically geniuses, you guys. And all it took was one screen-free day!)



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