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.
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…