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Screen Time ruminations 2 – are we creating emotional watchers?

Updated: Nov 24, 2019

The other day I was at a kid-friendly restaurant with Ayden and Judah. A few other “after-school-mom-and-child” parties joined us, as is usually the norm. At one point my 2 year old daughter came to sit on my lap and ask if she could watch “Peppa on your phone…”

Even though I’m very comfortable with my decisions and boundaries around screen time (outlined in my original article) I still always feel the knee-jerk-reactive need to pass a witty comment in these situations. I’m still scared of judgement and awkwardness.

I’ll either throw out a: “long the iPhone seven” in an attempt to simultaneously address and close the topic straight away; or ill just flat-out lie and say: “OMG I hate this so much”.

But the truth is I don’t hate it.

I actually love relaxing with my phone sometimes in the day, and I recognise it’s an easy access decompression aid for my kids too. (I read a case-study to this end based on an autistic child and it validated these sentiments completely).

Naturally I don’t want my children glued to a screen all day long but the fact is; they just aren’t.

Now back to the restaurant…

As little Aydi began to watch calmly on my lap, the other children continued their game on the jungle-gym, and a discussion of sorts began.

I fancy myself the archetypal researcher. Not only am I pursuing a post graduate degree in research but I constantly find myself conducting, what I can only deem as: ‘de-facto field research’. If I was presenting a research proposal I would call these discussions: ‘informal, open-ended interviews’; and the emergent themes and conclusions: ‘the research findings’.

What I've discovered is, as with everything in this journey, we learn what we live.

The mom who spoke to being militant about screen time (absolutely banned during the week) said she, herself, is obsessed with her phone. She described it as being ‘bad’ and ‘way too much’.

I, on the other hand, made a statement I didn’t even know I was carrying around with me. And I’m so proud of myself.

I Said:

“I feel like we are the generation of emotional eaters. I don’t know a woman today who isn’t struggling in her relationship with food or her body. I don’t want my children to become emotional watchers.”

For the most part our generation of woman were fed a constant and subtle narrative to the tune of: “don’t eat that, you’ll get fat”; “there are starving children in Africa”; “eat your vegetables first”;” you can only have dessert after your meal”; and so on.

As benevolent as the relative narrators may have been I think they’ve inadvertently yet completely rewired our intuitive appetite for food and our innate instinct for hunger and satiation. This may be a much larger discussion for another day but the underlying theory, in my humble opinion, applies to children and screen time too.

Bar the addictive nature of the blue back-light (much like that of refined sugar in the food analogy) I don’t want to create any extreme emotional dysregulation around watching. I actually want my children to have an emotionally neutral relationship to screen time altogether. I don’t want the screen to be the modern day forbidden fruit. The 2020’s emotional Band-Aid. I just want it to be one of the vast options available during appropriate leisure time.

And I want my children to be able to trust their own instincts and intuition about when to watch and when to turn off.

I know this is a tall ask of a four year old but aren’t all of our modern day expectations of kids a bit higher grade to begin with? Why not aim high in emotional intelligence first?

If I could wish for anything in this moment for my son and daughter; it would be for a fine tuned and razor sharp intuition and clear flowing and trustworthy instinctive dialogue with themselves.

May they always know what ‘the right thing for me’ feels like – regardless of what it “looks” like!

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