My kids are two and four years old and they probably have anything from 2 to 8 hours of ‘screen time’ a day. We quite often turn the TV on when we get up and don’t turn it off until bedtime. Of course they aren’t just sitting staring at the telly all day every day but if we’re at home we usually have CBeebies on as background noise and the boys dip in and out of it while playing with other things.
Toby didn’t watch anywhere near as much TV in his first two years of life as Gabe has done, but when you’ve got a baby and a toddler you do what you can to get through the day. Toby has also played on my old Kindle Fire since he was about two – we first started using it when he was about 18 months and he wouldn’t lie still for a nappy change. One episode of Small Potatoes was enough to distract him while he was changed, and as soon as he started to talk the Kindle became known as the ‘tiny telly’.
Over the last couple of years we have added more apps to the Kindle – the CBeebies apps are great, and we’ve also got a lot of the Dr Panda games, some jigsaws and lately more reading and phonics apps. Toby still likes to play on the tiny telly – but he tends to go in phases where he will want it all the time for a week or so, and then not play on it all for another few weeks.
I’ve never really worried about screen time before, but in the last few weeks it has become more and more of an issue in our house. The boys are both obsessed with dinosaurs at the moment, and they have also recently come to realise that we have both Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. And that means there is an awful lot of choice of TV, and a lot of choices to argue over! We’ve watch all the episodes of Dino Dan and Dino Dana (at least three times each!), we’ve watched Dinosaur Train, and Dinosaur King, we’ve watched LEGO dinosaurs, and Walking With Dinosaurs, oh and let’s not forget The Land Before Time too!
I actually don’t mind most of these programmes – Dino Dan and Dino Dana are at least quite educational, and Toby knows more dinosaurs than I even knew existed! My problem comes when it’s time to turn the TV off – we get tears and tantrums, we get moaning and whinging and basically it just turns them both into little horrors.
We’ve been trying to have more time with the TV off altogether, especially for Gabe during the week, and for them both at weekends. It’s working to a degree but I have to admit that sometimes I put it on because it’s the easiest thing for me to do to occupy them for a while so I can get stuff done.
The other issue at the moment is that Gabe has become obsessed with the Kindle too. He’s just worked out how to actually use it and play some of the games. He loves the jigsaws, and a colouring app we’ve got. And again, I’m not really concerned about him using it but he just won’t give it up without a massive meltdown. I even ended up letting him take it in the buggy on the school run the other day because I couldn’t face dealing with the inevitable tantrum if I tried to take it off him.
And because I can’t cope with both of them fighting over one Kindle, Toby has been using my new Kindle Fire to play some phonics games. I’m not really worried about Toby to be honest because, although he won’t be happy about it, he will put the Kindle away when he’s told. We’re actually planning on getting them both a new Kindle Fire each for Christmas because our old one doesn’t work with a lot of apps anymore, and I don’t really want to lose my new one to Toby either!
In a way, I’m not that worried about Gabe either – I know he will probably self-regulate eventually, as they both do with most things. For now though I don’t know if I should just go hard line and not let him have it all or try and limit the time he spends on it. It’s not like it’s all he does after all…
He is also obsessed with some dinosaur jigsaws at the moment. Two weeks ago he couldn’t do them by himself at all. He loved them but basically wanted to watch me put them together. And now, he can do all but the biggest two all on his own.
He really enjoyed playing with the new Elmer stacking blocks he was sent from Milly & Flynn this week too. Their #ToyFunFriday was one of the things that got me thinking about screen time in the first place actually.
And of course, I’m no example – my phone is pretty much an constant extension of my arm these days. This is definitely something that we are the first generation of parents to deal with though. I know my mum and dad didn’t have these worries – we watched the hour or so of kids’ TV that was on after school and on a Saturday morning and that was it. We were the first family in our school to get a home computer but we only had Pacman and Frogger to play, and we didn’t get to do that very often anyway!
But we live in a different world now; with TV on demand and hundreds of programmes to choose from at the touch of a button; with tablets and smart phones; with apps and games and the internet at our fingertips. And although I have my concerns about the amount of time my boys spend watching TV and playing on their tablets, I also think we would be doing them a disservice if we didn’t expose them to this technology, because this is life now, and these things are not going to go away.
Of course things will change as they get older and the things they want to watch and play change. But for now we are in control of what our children see and play, and on the whole I’m happy with the way we are managing it.
What are your views on screen time? Do you limit screen time for your toddlers and primary school kids or do you allow them free reign? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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