I grew up in a house where we were really not allowed much TV (excepting terrific 90s sitcoms, oh just you wait…details below) and we never had any sort of video game system. As in, I’ve still only played video games maybe 5 times in my life. If that. (Also known as: I was regularly trashed by the 8-year-old I babysat. He gave up asking to play after a few tries.) I was always just much more into reading my Nancy Drew books and I’m just getting cooler by the minute, now aren’t I?
It’s also usually actually easier for me to have very little screen time. Because I’m lazy, it’s easier for me to not have it as an option than to constantly be deciding whether to say yes or no. I’ve also found that the more screen time Nat is allowed, the more he wants. So it’s generally simpler to just have a policy of very little, and at very specific times/amounts.
So without further ado, here are our personal toddler screen time guidelines (I call them that because they’re definitely not set in stone, but this is generally how we do things with Nat for right now – it may totally change with kina with different personalities/priorities/numbers of kids/what is it with me and insanely long parentheticals??):
1. Phone/iPod: This will probably shock some of you off your chairs, but I still use T9 (remember that?) to send text messages on my old flip phone. That’s right, I don’t have a smartphone. I’ve just never felt it entirely necessary and haven’t (so far…we’ll see) been willing to spend $50+ a month to have one. I do have an iPod touch that I love because then I can check my email or read on my kindle app while I nurse the baby or use Instagram (terrible quality pictures from the iPod, I know, don’t hate me). The kids use this approximately never.
2. iPad: This is definitely where Nat gets most of his screentime, which I like, because then it’s not on a big screen for kina to see, as well. The biggest thing is a little youtube clip, almost always of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (whoever introduced him to it, well, there is a special feeling I have for you and it mostly involves making you listen to the Hot Dog song on repeat for the rest of your life) in the mornings. When he was potty training months ago, I figured out that was his best “reward currency.” He didn’t care at all about treats, liked stickers, but LOVED getting to watch a little Mickey clip (probably because he was so TV deprived). While potty training for #1 was a cinch, #2 took another couple of weeks, so this was really helpful, so he got in the habit of getting a video for going #2 in the potty. We weaned him off it for a while, but then when we returned from a trip, he somehow remembered, and has still wanted it. It hasn’t been worth the hassle to me of cutting him off yet, but I will eventually. Anyway, this usually amounts to anywhere from 6-20 minutes most mornings.
He will also sometimes play memory on there or do a book reading app, but this happens for probably 15 minutes once every week or two. He will also sometimes get it to do scripture coloring or scripture stickers during Sacrament meeting at church, so maybe 20-30 minutes on Sunday.
When in the car, he never gets it unless on a road trip, and it’s rare then. He’s generally much more interested in pointing out every.single.thing. out the window, anyway, and doesn’t remember it, anyway. When we were on our long road trip along the East coast earlier this summer, I honestly can’t remember if he used it at all. This is obviously something that varies a lot by child (and I would’ve been totally fine letting him have it then), but he was much more interested in reading his books than using the iPad. Nat’s always had a crazy long attention span for books (at kina’s age he would easily sit for 30 minutes reading with me, and she does…not do that) , but I don’t see that quite as much in kina (yet), so perhaps she’ll be more interested in having the iPad for those occasions when the time comes.
3. TV/Movies: Our TV consumption is pretty much non-existant. As in, I don’t remember the last time we watched something actually coming from the TV and not a DVD/VHS. We’re not big movie watchers here – in fact, we cancelled our Netflix several months ago because we finally realized we were MAYBE watching one movie a month, and that was sometimes on a good month. It just takes us forever to get through them. We’re much more likely to read a book together or watch a “Michelle movie,” as Nat calls them.
And here is where I confess my giant nerdiness. I totally love Full House. Still. So Dan got me all the seasons and we’ve been working our way through them. Twenty two minutes of lighthearted cheesiness is just our speed for evening media. We’ll maybe watch one episode as a family (usually after kina is in bed) twice a week or so.
Other than that, we will very occasionally watch some sort of animated VHS together (we have about 40). Nat loves Cars, and we’ve tried The Jungle Book and a couple others, but Nat’s attention span is really only about 30 minutes for these, and we only do it about once every other month.
4. Computer: We do weekly family video chat dates with Dan’s whole family, and we’ll occasionally Facetime with my mom during the day if it’s been a whole 72 hours since she’s seen the kids.
And that’s about it! So to recap, maybe an animated clip in the morning (10ish minutes), perhaps some short educational iPad game at some point during the day (10ish minutes), possibly some Full House in the evening as a family (22 minutes, sadly I know this). On Sundays, we don’t have the above, but we do have video chat and Sacrament meeting churchy apps. Blue moon usage includes long road trips (iPad) and VHS movies at home.
Me, on the other hand. I…spend a lot of time online. Like, I’m usually too embarrassed to answer those surveys that ask how many hours you spend online each day. Perhaps I should look into that.
What are your guidelines?