Editor’s Note: This article reflects only the author’s opinion
Recently one of my favorite online bloggers published a video encouraging everyone to “mind their own motherhood” when it comes to other kids and their digital usage. I typically agree with her, but absolutely do not in this area.
In many ways your kid’s screen time is my business. Hear me out.
I hear frequently that screens help parents’ “sanity.” It “keeps kids quiet” and “gives me a break.”
As a mom of three boys (ages six, three, and two), I understand. I really do. Turning on the TV really does offer an immediate short-term solution. Screens assist when I feel like I’m losing my mind. But parents? Our “sanity” is not as important as their safety. Adults and caretakers seem to be more interested in keeping kids quiet than keeping them safe.
This opinion won’t be popular. Some will feel judged by this topic. It will be considered “mom-shaming” (the ultimate female scorn) by some. I don’t desire to upset people. I carefully chose words to be encouraging and not demoralizing to parents.
Screens and digital dependency have drastically changed our society. We are so immersed, dependent, and addicted to technology we can’t imagine life without its “convenience.”
More terrifying, this digital dependency is changing neurological and brain stability. Meaning that structural and functional parts of the brain are changing because of screen time. Brains are literally shrinking. This should freak you out. While science hasn’t confirmed the impact of screens, medical professionals are overwhelmingly worried. More and more research keeps pointing towards the negative impact.
So, no. This is not “mom-shaming.” Stop. We need to discuss a widespread cultural problem. We need to be worried for our community’s kids. When society’s children are losing cerebral gray matter, showing increased signs of mental instability and losing the ability to interact with other humans … this does affect my children. It’s my business.
“Mind your own business,” people say.
“What I do with my kids shouldn’t affect you,” people say.
“How does my kid’s screen time impact you?” people ask.
Let me give you some examples of how your kid’s screen time impacts my family.
When we’re in the grocery store and my children try and speak to your children, your children don’t respond, wave back, or interact because they’re looking down at a phone. “Why won’t any of the children talk to me, Momma?” Uhhhhh.
When we’re at the park and your child brings an iPhone or tablet, my kids will want to watch. We were playing, running and interacting outside, but now everything comes to a screeching halt. Now all the kids want to look at your child’s phone. I don’t know what’s on your child’s screen. Is it appropriate for my toddler? I try and get them back to playing, but it’s not easy.
Even more awkward: When we’re at an indoor play structure and your child is hiding inside the smelly tubes (the ones I can’t fit inside anymore) watching their phone. This is wildly uncomfortable, but I will ask your child to come down. There are images I don’t want your child showing my young children inside a fast food restaurant. Nope. So many nopes.
When your child comes over for a birthday party or play date but wants my WiFi password instead of playing.
When your child walks blindly in front of my car because they’re engrossed in an alternative reality, I slam on the brakes and it scares everyone so badly that my baby cries.
Let’s call it what it is — addiction.
We all spend too much time on screens. Studies are piling up that seem to show the devastating impact it has on children’s mental, physical, neurological and spiritual health. You know you need to decrease your child’s screen time, but how, when the entire culture is built around digital babysitting?
You need to first evaluate your own addiction. Kids will model what they see. If you’re addicted to your phone, they will want to imitate your behavior. This is hard for me because I am 100 percent attached to my phone. I love technology and digital comforts. So I’ve made a conscious and deliberate attempt to keep my phone away. Honestly? I’m not great at this especially when I’m working from home. It’s a minute-by-minute battle. I’m trying, and I’m asking you to try as well.
I want you to hear that we struggle with screens in our home too. We are constantly evaluating, limiting and adjusting. But because we are more strict, I’ve been told my kids will be “digitally underdeveloped” because they don’t have access to enough screens. Not only is that statement hilarious — it’s not scientifically or medically substantiated.
Imagine this scenario. What if we treated environmental sustainability like we do our digital addiction? Someone throws trash on the ground and says, “Well how does that affect you?” Or a neighbor dumps motor oil down the storm drain and casually replies, “What I do at home shouldn’t impact you.”
But it does. Digital addiction impacts our entire community. It’s changing the very framework of our neurological systems. It’s changing our community. Our kids need us to push back and protect their minds. They need us focused. They need us to fight for them.
They need us to put down our own phones. They need help navigating a digitally obsessed world. Entire communities need to rally together and take control and address the cultural addiction.
But it starts with the parents. It begins with acknowledging that the (understandable) desire to have things quiet isn’t always what’s best.
Please don’t feel discouraged. Feel challenged. Find ways to decrease your own screen time. Start there and start today. Parents and caretakers, I’m begging you. We cannot put more emphasis on kids being quiet than being safe. Our sanity is not worth their safety. It’s just not.