Allow me to paint a picture of our family life: when I wake up, the first thing I do is reach for is my phone. I stare at it while I brew the coffee. I use it to check the news, social media, email, and our bank account. My husband wakes up and does the same, except he also plays games, so the multi-colored lights reflect off his forehead as he sips his coffee. It’s festive AF.
We use our phones for everything, and it creeps the shit out of me – but, it’s also so convenient that I choose to actively lean into the creepiness rather than fight it. My husband is a super geeky tech nerd, so he has us hooked up with a wireless mesh network (whatever the hell that means). All of our devices are connected through a Google Home app, and we have five Google Home speakers throughout the house that can communicate with each other.
In layman’s terms, this means that at any given moment, “Old Town Road” might start blaring through the speakers – or even more annoying, “Baby Shark” – or, our lights might turn bright blue if one of the family members commands it. We also have screens on two of the Google speakers, and those are connected to our security system.
Now that you understand the level of connectivity we’ve got going on over here, suffice it to say that our three children are growing up in a very screen-friendly home. I fought it at first, hoping to be the kind of parent who only allows 30 minutes per day for as many years as possible, but then the second baby came along and all of my fucks flew out the window. I won’t even tell you what happened when we had our third child … mostly because it’s such a blur that I don’t remember much.
All I know is that one day I woke up and realised that I’d slept for 10 hours straight and no one was screaming, and the television was keeping all three of them happy and quiet enough for me to enjoy a hot cup of coffee. That was the day that I chose to lean in.
The way technology weaves its way into everything my husband or I do makes it very hard to limit screen time for our kids. I mean, it’s pretty hard to be taken seriously by my kids when I tell them to turn off the PS4 and their dad is sitting right next to them playing Clash Royale.
“You and dad are ALWAYS on your phones!” is the protest we hear every time we announce that screens are cut off for the day. Yes, it’s true, we really are always on a device – especially, of course, my husband. But he also works 12-hour days to support our family, so when he’s home he needs a little mental check out time. Additionally, I’m a writer who works from home and I also happen to be working on two different local political campaigns, so I’m basically tethered to my mobile phone 24/7.
Most importantly, though, and this is what I tell our kids – my husband and I are both grown ass adults whose frontal lobes are fully developed. At the end of the day, we both need screens to do our jobs and function efficiently in the modern world, but our children are still children. They don’t get the same rules, nor should they.
Childhood is vastly different now than it was in the 1980’s when I was outside drinking from the water hose, and I struggle to find balance between telling them to go run wild in the neighborhood (people will report you for that, you know) and letting them space out in front of Minecraft for 6 straight hours. My generation of mothers are the first to navigate these tricky waters, and we are all just doing the best we can.
So, while my kids definitely get a lot of screen time – especially during the summer, when we’re all home – I don’t think they’re suffering irreparable harm.
I mean, hopefully.