Perhaps you heard about the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recent decision to dial back its recommendations on young children and screentime. I know I did. Even before I had my twin daughters this spring, I knew there probably was no way I would be strictly adhering to the recommendations, which discourage screen time for children younger than 2 and limit it to two hours a day for older kids.
Those who know me know that I am a bit of a TV junkie. I used to write a TV column. I’ve freelanced for TV blogs. I live and die by my TV shows.
Sure, I knew I would be giving a lot of that up when I had kids. No more do I stick with a show I’m lukewarm about, hoping it will improve (Hello, “Orphan Black” and “The Affair.” Or, rather, good-bye.) No more can I watch shows the day, or even the week that they air, leading to two or three-week stockpiles of shows on my DVR.
But I knew it just wasn’t going to make my home a TV-free zone. And my husband, while he can take or leave TV shows as a whole, is a big sports fan. There is no way he would forgo watching college football on our living room big screen on Saturday afternoons so that we could be AAP compliant.
It’s not that we planned to park our kids in front of the TV 24/7. I know that’s a bad idea. Did you ever see the short-lived Fox TV show “Profit”? (Answer: It was on for, like, two episodes, so no, you probably haven’t seen it). It was about a guy whose parents literally raised him by putting him in a cardboard box and parking it in front of the TV. He became a sociopath. I would prefer that not happen to my children.
However, I see no harm in popping on an episode of “The Goldbergs” as I feed my daughters at night or play with them on the bed in the morning. OK, I feel less good about watching NBC’s gruesome “Hannibal” when they’re in the room (and let’s not even talk about how I catch up on Showtime’s raunchy “Masters of Sex,”) though I reason that a) they don’t know what’s going on and b) they probably enjoy the noise and bright colors.
But I must admit, guilt nagged at me. I want to be a good mother to my girls, and want to encourage their development. I give them tummy time, even though one of them hates it. I play with them. I take them for walks. I read to them every day (Yes, I read children’s books. Just because I watch “Masters of Sex” in front of them doesn’t mean I’m reading them “Gone Girl.” I’m not a monster.) Yet maybe all the good stuff I’ve done was being offset by watching TV in front of my kids.
But last week, the AAP modified its stance slightly, taking into account our increasingly screen-heavy world. “In a world where “screen time” is becoming simply “time,” our policies must evolve or become obsolete,” read a statement by the academy. “The public needs to know that the Academy’s advice is science-driven, not based merely on the precautionary principle.” Instead of just setting limits, the AAP advocates “responsible use” of media, and heavily encourages doing other activities (aka playing) with them as well.
Granted, this was probably more a response to the rise of digital technology than to TV addicts like me. And I’m sure the AAP still wouldn’t approve of the fact that my daughters are familiar with the exploits of Dr. Hannibal Lecter, but this does make me feel slightly better. I do really try to limit the TV I watch in front of my daughters, and mostly keep my binges to nap times and post-bedtime. I try not to watch too much inappropriate stuff in their presence. I only occasionally plop them in front of the TV when I’m not in the room (hey, I have to make dinner at some point).
But no one is perfect. We’re all just doing the best we can. Some of us would just prefer to do it without having to give up TV.