People are usually very surprised to hear that we do not allow screen time for Baobao. My husband is an early intervention specialist so we had decided that despite being in this modern technological age, this was one thing we would not allow. This was challenging for Baobao’s caregiver but of course there had to be exceptional circumstances that we could not avoid.
- When the TV was on at someone’s house if we were visiting
- TV screens in public
- If her caregiver needed a few minutes for meal prep or to rush to the toilet and she was screaming and crying
Most of the time while we played nursery rhymes on the phone, we hid the screen so only the audio could be heard. Occasionally she would try to peek at the screen. We did this for the first two years of her life.
I always asked my husband, how is it that other parents could go on flights, go to meals, basically live their day-to-day life without a screaming, anxious child. And then I always answered my question with “Because they used a phone for distraction.” But how well were their children communicating really?
“How Old is Your Child?” aka “How Come Your Child Can Talk?”
Many people or parents, would always ask us how old Baobao was and react with surprise when they found out her age, commenting that she spoke very well. Despite the fact that she started speaking earlier than a typical baby, we pretty much attest this to the fact that we provided no screen time. Among an observable peer group of children born in the same year as her, despite being born towards the end of the year, she was easily at least on par, if not more with the child 7 months older than her by age 1.
“My Child Can’t Talk Yet…”
Modern parenting suggests that a baby should be quiet and not noisy hence when they are, for the sake of a parent’s sanity, they are silenced.
We realised that even though someone would ask us why Baobao could speak, the moment their child started to make early babbling sounds/communicative sounds aka noise, they would shove a pacifier/dummy into the child’s mouth.
It first starts with the pacifier/dummy. Soon enough, they are silenced with a screen that talks to them and does not require their reciprocal communication.
What about learning? While I agree that devices can help with learning, there is also a time and age appropriate for that, which is clearly not when they are still babies or toddlers who should be exploring the world.
Even if we want to incorporate technology, there are many screenless options available to get toddlers and children started in STEM/STEAM. The latest in this is a screenless coding system for young children called Mochi Robot which was just launched recently on Kickstarter.
When Will We Give Screen Time?
Baobao eventually received her first tablet at her second birthday from a well-meaning grandparent. While she mostly used it to learn Spanish and listen to her favourite songs, her screen time usage lengthened by the day.
I had spoken to her in the early days and told her that if she did her daily tasks, brushing her teeth, eating her meals, she could have a few minutes of it. At first she agreed but slowly she chose to prioritise the screen time.
It went from 5 minutes, to 10 minutes to 20 minutes to 30 minutes. Unfortunately I was badly injured and could not sit up or move about to take care of her for a period of time hence the increased usage. While we limited the number of times she could access it or distracting her with it. She eventually started to ask, “Why?”. Why couldn’t she have it? After an incident where she tried to grab numerous phones from the family, she asked “Then where is the tablet?”, and that was when we decided to end the screen time.
We are happy to let her have controlled screen time for learning but we are waiting for her to be a little bit more ready to handle the huge responsibility that is screen time. Probably in the next 6 months, or 12 months, we could consider this again.