Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.
This week: Grandma doesn’t approve of your screen time rules (or lack thereof). Email email@example.com
Dear Scary Mommy,
I don’t believe in regulating screen time. Maybe I’ll change my mind one day, maybe I won’t. But for now, my kids (7, 5, 3) can watch TV or use their Kindles as often as they want to. They do their thing on their screens for a bit and then move on. This works for us, even if it wouldn’t work for everyone. The problem is my mom won’t shut up about it. She thinks I’m being lazy and too carefree by allowing them to do this whenever they want. But the thing is, my kids aren’t addicted to screens. They play outside, they play independently, and they play with one another and other kids just fine. I’ve tried telling her this, but she goes CRAZY over it—especially when I let them have it during meal times sometimes. She nags me about this constantly, even in front of my kids. Is she right? Or is she crazy?
I think it’s incredibly important to use your own words here, because you may not realize how important they are: “This works for us.” No two families are alike, and whatever works for your family might not work for another family. That’s OK! It does work for your crew, and that’s what matters most.
My own philosophy about screen time: we place WAY too much value on “screen time.” Society, parents, and, well, grandparents too. Way, way, wayyyyy too much. And when you place a high value on something, it makes that thing more desirable. When that thing is desirable, people crave it. They fight over it. They spend a lot of time thinking about that thing when they don’t have that thing.
By having screens (TV, computer, Kindle, etc.) as part of your everyday life where it’s just one of the many things that exist for them to do, it makes sense that your kids can self-regulate their time with screens. Some days they might spend more time on them, other days, they might be outside playing with friends and don’t care about screens at all.
My own daughter is much the same way. Some days will go by where I realize I haven’t charged her iPad in 48 hours, other days, she wants to watch a movie and three episodes of “Where’s Chicky?” My husband, who has ADHD, would not be able to self-regulate this way. So you’re right—what works for some doesn’t work for others. But if it works for you all, GREAT.
Instead of putting your mom in her place (at least not right away after reading this) try and get her to think about it from a new perspective. We (adults) sit and binge 8 episodes of Bridgerton or Ted Lasso like it’s nothing, right? (Or scroll through TikTok for hours, if you’re me.) It’s how we unwind, get our minds off of things, and release stress via escapism. Well why the heck would it be any different for kids when they’re watching their videos or playing their little games? (Spoiler: it’s not.)
If she can’t get her head out of her own ass long enough to think of it that way, well, good news! She’s already raised her kids. These ones are yours. And they’re doing just fine. Also? There’s a pandemic still raging on. If this is one way they cope, so be it. They don’t need Grandma undermining Mom’s authority. Good luck!