Screen time dilemmas: ‘I made my family disappear’

I’ve always been a bit cagey about letting the kids play with my phone. Mainly because I want it (!), but also because I didn’t want my iPhone7 which has a tendency to shatter all too easily, being used as a football or weapon by my three year old.

I guess I’ve always been conscious that by its very nature, a mobile phone is always at arms reach – unlike a games console or tablet which can be put away out of sight for another time, the kids know that Mummy’s phone is always in her back pocket or bag, ready to snap any photo opportunity within a second. Home or away, on the school run, out shopping or in the car… I didn’t want to get into the constant battle of saying they can’t have my phone.

And so, until now we haven’t had too much trouble with ‘screen time’ angst, apart from the odd Disney movie TV binge the girls haven’t really fallen down the digital black hole of the entertainment age, and we’ve sufficed in restaurants and long journeys with a bag of tat, colouring pencils and lots of counting to ten under our breaths.

But recently, they have discovered the endless possibilities of fun and games that the Kindle Fire Kids they were bought last Christmas can provide. An epiphany, thirteen months later, amidst all the amazing toys they were bought this Christmas. Love kids.

In other words, they want to play with their tablets every waking moment.

Now, I have heard people talk about limiting screen times and I hadn’t really listened too intently, given it wasn’t an issue we were facing. But we find ourselves in this new predicament, that the kids want to play on the tablets all the fricking time, making the house goes into total silence. It’s as though I’m home alone, and I made my family disappear.

Initially this sweet spot brought me much joy as I happily prepared tea whinge free, but when it came to removing tablets from small peoples hands, the trouble started. Mega tantrums at the dinner table, because I wouldn’t let them play / watch while we were eating. I mean, after all these years we can’t start this now right?

It’s one rule I’m trying my damndest to assert. No tablets at the table. But, I have to say it’s caused some catatonic meltdowns at mealtimes, and resulted in many a dinner being untouched by our all too easily distracted fussy eater.

Over Christmas there was plenty of other excitement going on, days out, visits, new toys…but since we’ve settled back to normality, the tablet obsession is back with a vengeance. Last thing at night, first thing in the morning, before their coats are off from school and it’s driving me mad.

I could take the easy option of course and let the girls have the damn things. Throw them a brioche from time to time and get merrily on my way, but it just all sits too uneasy with me. They turn into zombies and even walk around the house staring at the screen like the walking dead. Perhaps this is the sign of things to come, but I’m not ready for that just yet. They are just five and three after all.

So the battles continue. Everything in moderation, and despite the cries and pleads, I’m trying to encourage the girls to limit tablet time to half an hour here or there, when they’ve eaten their tea, are totally ready for school, and occasionally because Mummy wants a quiet brew in peace. Use it to my advantage and make them realise the joy in small doses.

It’s not easy, and involves a bit of encouragement to play elsewhere – getting out the dressing up box, whacking up the tunes for a kitchen disco, or doing a puzzle or game together. Challenging them to draw me an amazing picture, or (ugh) getting out the play doh. It involves input from me when I’d probably be quite happy sitting next to them scrolling through my phone too, but that wouldn’t be the best example now would it…

I guess what I’m trying to say is that we aren’t perfect, and there are definitely days where the tablets have been totally milked (the christmas decorations down day was a particular all time low). It’s winter, it’s been wet and cold, and the kids have been getting some educational stuff from those puzzles and games – and, also watching Peter Rabbit. But, I’m holding on to the fact that I prefer it when I hear them giggling and laughing, chatting and occasionally beating each other up, than when the house is in total silence, yet there are three females with big personalities in it. I’m not the tablet police, I’m just a little unsure I like to see the girls get so engrossed for SO long – they could honestly stare at those digital colours of wonder all. day. long.

There has to be a balance. We just have to find it.

x MMT

Anyone found the nirvana state of screen time balance? How long it’s okay to let kids zone out with a tablet? Thought and answers on a postcard please…

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37 thoughts on “Screen time dilemmas: ‘I made my family disappear’

  1. Nicole - Tales from Mamaville Reply

    I have always had a love-hate relationship with the TV/ Kindle / phone… I love it because it gives me some breathing space but hate it because it leads to tantrums when asked to switch it off. And, as you rightly said, leaves them in zombie mode.
    #coolmumclub

  2. theelephantmum Reply

    It’s a very important topic and there’s no one size fits all (like always in parenting). I think you have done the most important step of becoming conscious of the issue.
    I want to recommend this test we’ve done, it has helped us a lot
    https://theelephantmum.com/2017/11/01/digital-detox-for-parents/
    and also this podcast is excellent
    http://digitalparentpodcast.com/

  3. mebeingmummy Reply

    This was so interesting…. We haven’t really introduced our boys to a tablet yet, apart from to watch a film or something if we go on long car journeys and hit a traffic jam! I think you’re right, it’s all about finding the balance. That’s definitely the hardest part! #coolmumclub

  4. Jenny Curtis Reply

    We do use the iPad when doing long car journeys as I’d rather our daughter was entertained than in a bad mood the whole time. But it is such a slippery slope. Especially as I want to be on my phone sometimes so feel guilty about setting a bad example. Some of the stuff on YouTube aimed at kids is really strange as well (but that’s probably another blog post….)

  5. Mrs Lighty Reply

    This is really interesting. I’ve just written my own post about screen time, from an everything ‘on-demand’ perspective, and I’ve also spoken about limiting it. It’s such a fine line to tread, isn’t it? xxx #coolmumclub

  6. RainbowsR2Beautiful (@rainbowsaretoo) Reply

    It’s hard and I think you just look at what works for you and your kids. Our boys would be lost without their devices. My #coolmumclub post this week was about Youtube and Minecraft. But our daughter can play better and just fine without it so I do limit her time a lot.

  7. Emma Reply

    Ahh I read this hoping you had some answers! I know exactly what you mean, sometimes its easier to let them watch a movie on a tablet but then how do you explain that its not ok when to them they’re in the same situation of being in the house looking for things to do! I wish I had some answers to help but I know its going to be something I’ll have to deal with in my own way when the time comes along! I guess there are no right answers, all we can do is do our best x

  8. thestrawberryfountain Reply

    I find this really interesting. I want to limit screen time for my boys but i am also aware that this is the future and if they are learning new skills I would like them to have the edge with technology as most schools/colleges/unis and jobs will require these skills. Maybe its about being mindful of the activities more than the length of time.

  9. The Mummy Bubble Reply

    I haven’t got tablets for my two yet but am sure I will. They certainly watch too much telly already! My brother limited his eldest son’s tablet time recently and found his behaviour improved dramatically, so it obviously does have some impact. When my kids do have tablets I imagine we will try to have set times when they can use them, but I’m sure it will be easier said than done. #coolmumclub

  10. Keeping the tribe alive Reply

    We put a screentimer on recently to stop the zombie effect…then we got a puppy. Nobody has touched them since but there are moments when the thought of three zoned out kids rather than three manic kids and a puppy sounds very tempting!

  11. mummyhereandthere Reply

    My kids love tv, they don’t play on tablet because the squabbling and meltdowns do my head in., I have the TV on most of the time. I don’t sweat it no more, I used to get so stressed. They soon get bored of it anyways, life is too short X #coolmumclub

  12. Jaki Reply

    I’m a big believer in everything in moderation. I find after school Little Man is so exhausted, half an hour with the iPad is a nice rest for him. Half the time he’s using it to play an educational game anyway, so I don’t see the issue there. As long as it’s not all consuming. #coolmumclub

  13. motherhoodtherealdeal Reply

    It’s so tough hun – we have very strict rules in this house when it comes to screen time. Only before school if the little is 100% reading, a bit before dinner but so long as no whinging when it comes off, and then a little bit after bath time but only for super relaxing watching. I think the thing is to decide what’s right for you and your family then stick to it but it takes a bit of pain laying the ground rules either way. Food for thought though. Sending lots of #coolmumclub be strong mama vibes! xoxox

  14. Kate@TheMumConundrum Reply

    My eldest two would be glued to screens all their waking hours if I gave them the choice. They’re only 4 and 6! They have two allocated screen days a week where they are allowed to fill their boots for a couple of hours after school. Sometimes though, when the noise levels become unbearable I do break out the screens for a short while just to stop them bickering / breaking stuff / half nelson each other… I used to feel guilty about it, but ultimately as long as it’s not excessive and there is some degree of balance in their activities I’m not going to beat myself up about it xx

  15. Abi - Something About Baby Reply

    We’ve yet to encounter the tablet issue with Alfie as he’s only 2, so it’s easy to just not introduce him to one (neither my husband or I have a tablet so it’s a big deal in our house). But I know that won’t last forever and I’ll admit I’m dreading the battles I know are coming! #coolmumclub

  16. franbackwithabump Reply

    My eldest is nearly ten and her phone and tablet live downstairs in the sideboard and she has to ask to use them. That way we can monitor her usage and what she accesses. They definitely have their place for quiet time but equally they are easy entertainment for kids and they get glued to them rather than going to play so we’re pretty strict with them! Thanks for hosting and sorry I’ve not linked in forever! #coolmumclub x

  17. Zoe Reply

    I’m not against our girls using technology, but I think moderation is key. I’m sure they would spend ages on them if they were allowed, but I don’t want them to stare at screens for too long! #coolmumclub

  18. viewfromthebeachchair Reply

    Sadly it is going to be their future and the future of their children. Finding a balance is hard. I find it comes in waves. It is ok to tap out sometimes. Good luck. #coolmumclub

  19. Nita Reply

    I agree with alot of the comments here. Screen addiction is real! I have also tried to limit our TV/iPhone time, but sometimes the only thing that will keep him quiet is those tiny little bright screens! It also makes it harder for us, as my little boy is looked after by grandparents a few days a week, so they will obviously give in and give him anything he wants! So me and hubby have had to try very hard ourselves to limit in our own household. #coolmumclub

  20. barriebismark Reply

    It’s a tough battle for sure. I know there is good with electronics, but it seems like it is addicting. I’m not sure what the answer is, but I just take it day by day. #coolmumclub

  21. Kate on thin ice (@kateonthinice) Reply

    Such a tricky issue. We are so new in history to screens really and so we are the pioneer parents trying to work out what to do for the best which is stressful. I never wanted my children to have any access to screens when I imagined my parenting but reality means of course if I had stuck to that they would have such isolation issues. I don’t have the answer and I am always pretty stressed about what to do for the best on this one. #CoolMumClub

  22. Sharon Reply

    Yep pretty much my life! I bought a box for Christmas where they had to put all their phones for a few hours, including mine!!! Not sure they would do it very often but hey. Thing is while they are all on their devices so are their friends as I can hear my boys talking to them all as they play. It’s either that or have them grumpy sitting with me but on the other side we do play board games now and again and I always make sure we have time for catch up chats (the kids make it quick). other than that I just wing it! #coolmumclub

  23. Morgan Prince Reply

    It is SO difficult. With my boys being 8 and 13 I’ve had plenty of practise with restricting screen time and I still haven’t found the sweet spot. We tend to give the boys warnings about putting the tablets away 10 minutes before dinner – we don’t let them have tablets at the dinner table either. We do still get the occasional meltdown. #CoolMumClub

  24. oldhouseintheshires Reply

    Such a tricky one, especially when children get homework and they are used to having their tablet and then don’t do their homework (can you tell I’m a teacher…). In the old house, we used to have no screen time in the week. They could watch TV for an hour after school but then it was homework, Bath, bed as we used to get up at 6am so they were tired. Friday night was ‘so what you like cos parents are knackered” so screens were in! This lasted until they got a phone at age 12. Then phones had to be downstairs when they went to bed and I trusted them to do their homework etc. It’s a tricky one because I think kids get tablets and phones earlier than mine did. Moderation is key as we still want our kids to be creative, active and read books. #coolmumclub

  25. MotherAlmostNeverKnowsBest Reply

    This is a daily struggle for me.nice not to feel alone #coolmumclub

  26. ren blaire hunter Reply

    It is hard, they can easily become so obsessed, well I guess we have become obsessed with screen time too haven’t we. I think it is ok for the most part to just let them enjoy it, but dinner time and family play time has to be the exception #coolmumclub

  27. RaisieBay Reply

    I’ve not read all the comments but I’m guessing you are not alone in this. It’s a constant battle in our house too. I hate my husband uses his mobile at the table, I’ve always complained about it, now the kids want to take their tablets/phones to the table and I’m forbidding it. I realised they were using them way too much so now they have time limits or can only go on them extra as a reward (for completing homework, cleaning up etc.) and only if there is spare time. They are not allowed on as soon as they get in from school and for an hour before bed, and of course during dinner. This doesn’t really leave them too much time, but it still feels like too much.

    Is there a balance?

    #blogccrush

  28. amumatwork Reply

    i’ve been having this battle a lot with my 2 year old recently. He’s not too bothered by the TV but is a total tablet monster and would happily be on it for hours if I let him. At the moment, his age means he’s quite easily distractable, so enticing him away is relatively easy. I’m dreading the next few years though! #coolmumclub

  29. Mum OverRun. (@MumOverRun) Reply

    It’s a difficult one isn’t it? I find my four year old sometimes needs screen time to wind him down and get him to sit still for a bit BUT if it goes on too long it has the adverse affect! I don’t what I’ll do when he’s old enough to have a tablet or phone of his own! #CoolMumClub

  30. Laura - Autumn's Mummy Reply

    I think it’s important for even adults to have a balance. I know I certainly haven’t found my right balance yet! I’m not looking forward to dealing with the screen time dilemma when my LG is older. #CoolMumClub

  31. Lucy At Home Reply

    We don’t have a tablet so we haven’t had this problem specifically, but I definitely limit screen time with regards to TV. It is noticeable that when they’ve watched too much tv, they are more grumpy throughout the day. It also seems that watching something like Netflix (which is episode after episode of the same programme) makes them more irritable than watching TV for the same amount of time but it’s a film or a selection of different TV programmes.

    Good luck trying to find the right balance for you and your family.

    Anyway congratulations because someone loved this post so much, they added it to the BlogCrush linky! Feel free to collect your “I’ve been featured” blog badge 🙂 #blogcrush

  32. The Pramshed Reply

    This is a constant battle we are going through in our house. My toddler just wants my phone all the time and sometimes she will only eat if she has the iPad, you’re not the only one. I’m trying to encourage her to play more with her toys and most of the time she gets on and does that. It’s a fine balance isn’t it, and one that’s difficult to strike especially when the mega tantrum happens. Good luck! Claire x #CoolMumClub

  33. Musings of a tired mummy...zzz... Reply

    We bought new Kindles for the children this Christmas. Technology is not going to go away so kids need to be confident and responsible enough to use it. I do limit time and make sure I am in the room so that I can check content is appropriate #coolmumclub

  34. Mrs Mummy Harris (@mummyharris86) Reply

    I’ve been quite fortunate with Ben as the TV he likes also includes Jeremy Kyle, the Chase, Ru Paul’s Drag Race and Suits.. (trained him so well!!!) So days at home with him are pretty nice as it comes across as family time, however after a while in a restaurant, toys only do so much to distract a little one who just wants to walk everywhere! #coolmumclub

  35. crummymummy1 Reply

    Ours definitely watch their tablets way too much – mainly because it keeps them quiet so we can work (we both work from home now)! #coolmumclub

  36. Gemma - Heart Mammi Reply

    We bought our girls a Kindle Fire each for Christmas last year. I do prefer that they can watch youtube on their own device instead of my phone. But we do have tantrums when they’re not allowed to have tablets at the dinner table, or when they watch youtube instead of getting dressed for School in the morning. Still haven’t found the balance here.

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