Why One Mom Is OK with Losing the Screen Time Battle

posted: 02/23/16
by: Kristina Wilson
Kristina and Jason with baby Lincoln

When I was pregnant I did everything an almost mom is supposed to do. This included making a manifesto on how I was going to raise my son. There was, of course, a subsection for technology. I had done my research and so I knew that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under age 2 have no screen time. So it was decreed in our home: no screen time until age 2.

And then Lincoln was born. We started off with a bang. Jason bought us wireless headsets so that we could watch TV while I breastfed but Lincoln would not see or hear anything. We kept our cell phones out of site and agreed to only use them rooms where Lincoln was not present. This all was working out nicely until I went back to work. The on-call nature of Sitters Studio means that I need to have my phone ready for calls at any time. The first thing I do when I wake up is check emails to see if any parents have last minute requests. I do the same right before I go to bed.

As Lincoln started to "wake up" to the world, he started to notice that his parents had a lot of cool toys. And those toys seemed to be appearing everywhere. Eventually I had a baby spoon of oatmeal in one hand and a phone in the other. One time, as I was getting for work, Lincoln would not stop fussing. Out of sheer desperation I flipped on the TV and sat him on our bed directly in front of it. Each battle became harder and harder to win. And this week, 12 days shy of 14 months old, we lost the war. This week, Lincoln leaned over, grabbed a phone, and swiped!

He looked down with such pride as the icons on the screen moved around. He was like a scientist who had spent the past 14 months studying and planning and had finally tested his theory -- which worked perfectly. His face quickly turned to panic when he and I made eye contact. He knew that he had gone beyond his boundaries and he swiped frantically, just trying to experience it at few more times, as I walked toward him. He didn't even put up a fight when I reached for the device but rather crawled off with a smile on his face, still breathless from it all.

I put the phone (an unlocked old phone that we use as a baby monitor and music control) back on the table where it resides. I felt terrible. I felt like a failure. After all, I was sending my child completely mixed messages. There is literally a tablet, phone or computer in every room of our apartment except Lincoln's. We even have a tablet mounted in the kitchen so we can bring up recipes while we cook. Yet he was not allowed to touch any of them. It was clear, though, that he knew what they were and he wanted those devices. Were we already setting our son up for failure? Will he still get into Harvard? The guilt was overwhelming.

After two days of feeling like I was sneaking around in my own home, Jason and I finally agreed that there was not much we could do. Our work pays for our lives: our food, shelter, diapers. Having remote access to our jobs allows us the luxury of being home with our son more often. So we decided we had to scratch the technology section off of our manifesto and try a little less hard. We still listen to music in surround sound every morning as a family. But if every once in a while the phone rings, we are going to be ok picking up and saying "hello." There still won't be baby tablets for Christmas, but we might just let him have a swipe or two each week.

Kristina Wilson of TLC's "Rattled" is also CEO of Sitters Studio, a New York-based childcare provider.