I'm pretty sure if you go into a dark room, light a candle, and say "screen time" in a mirror three times, an amalgam of about 100 different sanctimommies will show up and start talking to you about studies that show screen time causes bubonic plague. I'm all about encouraging kids to be creative and thoughtful and active, but I would be lying if I said screen time wasn't an important tool in my parenting arsenal. There are lots of reasons I put a screen in front of my kid today; television screens, tablet screens, video game screens, all the screens! Because on top of thinking that many (well-meaning) people are blowing the “dangers” of screens way out of proportion, I think interacting with screens can be another way for children to engage, learn, and become interesting people.
(Also, sometimes, mama just needs a minute, people. Can mama get a mother-loving’ minute over here? You know who gives mama her minute? Sweet, sweet screens.)
“How lazy,” you may choose to scoff. “You’re just doing whatever is easier.” You know what? A lot of times, you’re damn right I am! Just like I’m doing what’s easier by using my oven instead of an open fire in my yard, or indoor plumbing instead of a bush. Life is hard enough without having to forgo conveniences because, um, reasons?
Do I want my kids to do nothing but vacantly stare at a screen playing insipid, mindless garbage for hours on end, day after day until their 18 and in charge of their own adult lives? Of course not. But I think the right material, being monitored and discussed, runs from “absolutely fine” to “actually beneficial.” So with that in mind, here are just a few of the good reasons my kids bliss out in front of a screen from time to time:
Because I Needed To Work
Every try to write with a child anywhere near you? It's hard. Yesterday my son came into my office and started listing the different kinds of Pokémon he was going to catch. Guys, this went on for 10 minutes or so. Often my children are able to play by themselves (Legos, dolls, books, etc.) but sometimes I have to hear all about their Pokémon. In those moments, I guiltlessly turn on a few episodes of Pikachu and his pals just to finish up.
Because I Needed To Cook
Small, bouncy children and open flames, sharp knives, boiling water, active stoves, and a preoccupied parent do not mix.
Because I Needed To Poop
Don't you give me that look: everybody poops, and when you gotta go you gotta go. Sometimes I cannot trust either of my children not to set the house on fire in the five minutes it's going to take to do my business without turning on Curious George.
Because I Was On The Phone
I can't hear a thing with all that child nonsense going on in the background, people. Do you know those kids who just let out ear-piercing, shrill screams for no apparent reason? Yeah, one of them is mine. She doesn't do that when I let her watch Fraggle Rock and, right now, I need her not to do that or someone's going to think I'm murdering her.
Because I Went To Bed At Midnight & My Kid Woke Up At 4:30 A.M.
Parenthood is basically resigning yourself to exhaustion, for one reason or another, for the next 20-30 years of your life. But some days even you're exhausted even for a parent. On those days, you and your screens are a tag team and they've gotta be all in for a bit.
Because It's 4:30 A.M.
Let's be honest here, it doesn't matter when you went to bed: anything before 6 a.m. is an ungodly, ridiculous hour. Screens before 6 a.m. definitely don't count toward a child's daily allotment.
Because They Were Sick
Sometimes children bear little to no resemblance to their adult counterparts. The fact that we're all human seems to be a technicality. But when they're sick they're just like us: they just need to lay on the couch in their pajamas and marathon watch something simple and entertaining.
Because They Actually Play While They Watch TV
I feel like parents say this in a desperate attempt to justify their children watching TV (even though they don't have to justify a damn thing) but you know what? It's true. My daughter colors, my son builds with Legos, or they act out their own adventures along with their favorite characters. It's kind of awesome, actually.
Because I Was Sick
Parents don't get days off, so your sick stirs nothing in your child remotely resembling pity or a desire to take it easy on you. So congratulations, kid, this virus has just given you hours of TinkerBell.
Because It's Educational
Again, this is another things parent say to try to feel better about themselves and, again it's true. Do you know how much I've learned about different animals from Wild Kratts? Or how my son has legit learned words and phrases in Italian from an app on his iPad? My toddler would absolutely not know what a rhombus is without the various songs about shapes she watches on YouTube. In light of all this I cannot feel bad about letting them watch.
Because It Was A Snow Day
Ugh! Damn snow day threw off my whole groove. I had nothing planned and the kids are going nuts because their routine has been altered as well. This is definitely a job for Sleeping Beauty.
Because The Two Of Them Wouldn't Stop Fighting
And I seriously, really need you two to stop fighting. I will do anything at this point. TV seems a small price to pay.
Because I Wanted To See What Would Happen On The Next Episode Of 'How To Train Your Dragon'
What adventures are Hiccup and Toothless going to have next? Is Heather going to join back up with the Dragon Riders? And what can we expect from feminist hero Astrid?
I'm a sleep-deprived mom with limited viewing options. There isn't one of us who doesn't get weirdly invested in at least one of their children's shows. I legit knew other moms for whom the birth of Daniel Tiger's baby sibling was appointment viewing.
Because I Had Company Over
If I wanted to enjoy that company without being interrupted every three minutes, sometimes, screens are required.
Because They Were Being A Brat
And some days I have neither the time nor patience for brats. It's not that I don't deal with bad behavior. It's just that I have dealt with it and I can tell I'm going to have to keep dealing with it because there's obviously something evil in the air today. So sometimes I just accept that bad moods happen and let my kid gather themselves with some Don't Let The Pigeon Run This App.
Because It Was So Hot Out
Just blagh. I don't want to be out in that, either, so we've been playing in our small apartment all day long and we're getting a little bit bored. I don't think a few rounds of Super Mario are going to do anyone any harm in this situation.
Because I Was Being A Brat
Who among us hasn't had a day when we know it's not the kids, it's us. They're not doing anything wrong but, for whatever reason, we just can't deal and we're snapping at every little thing. (Spoilers: moms aren't perfect. Let's all collectively clutch our pearls in horror.) Times like this I have definitely rescued my children from mean mommy by turning on Mary Poppins. Oh Mary Poppins, you really do bring families closer together!
Because It Was Raining
See justification for "Because It Was So Hot Out."
Because It Was So Cold Out
See justification for "Because It Was So Hot Out" and "Because It Was Raining."
Because I Did Not Want To Read 'Goodnight Moon' One More Goddamn Time
I love reading with my children. It delights me to no end when they run over to me with their favorite book and plop in my lap expectantly. There's only so many times I can go through the same book over and over, though. OMG, and when they start to realize when you skip pages? That's a dark day for parents everywhere, folks.
And it's not just reading the same thing over and over. It's playing the same game again and again, or singing the song or just doing any single task over and over and over and over. Kids love that crap, but moms need a break.
Because Their Grandmother Said They Could
It's just not worth the argument right now. Not today.
Because I Was Tired Of Listening To Alexa's Jokes
How I rue the day my child ever discovered Alexa could tell jokes. Very few of those jokes are funny, people! And then your toddler wants Alexa to tell her a joke, but Alexa doesn't understand your toddler, who gets pissed off and starts that shriek again and OMG, guys, even that weirdass "Daddy Finger" nonsense is better than this.
Because I Just Want To Sit With This Glass Of Wine For 10 Minutes
It's a Pinot Noir. My friends brought it back from their recent trip from Napa. I don't get to go to Napa because I have kids, so I have to enjoy these little moments when I can, and I can't enjoy it with my beloved monsters crawling all over me. Let's all just stop and take a moment.
Because They Were Sobbing
Kids get overwhelmed. Sometimes there's no real reason why. I just chalk it up to the fact that they're complex, weird little creatures. So sometimes a little mindless pampering is in order.
Because I Was Sobbing
Parents get overwhelmed. Sometimes there's no real reason why. I just chalk it up to the fact that they're complex, weird little creatures. So sometimes a little mindless pampering is in order.
(Did you see what I did there?)
Because We Were In A Car
The tablet is the one thing that keeps little kindergartener feet from swinging into my lower back for the two hours it takes to get to grandma's house.
Because They've Been Running Around All Day
Sometimes screens are a great day to wind down an active, busy, tiring day. Is there any pleasure so sweet or simple as zoning out on your phone after coming back from the beach and before going out to dinner? It can't just be me? I love that feeling. So leisurely! Kids should be entitled to that feeling of relaxed satisfaction.
Because Their Sibling Is At Gymnastics & We Have To Sit Here
My son was at a gymnastics class and the parents and siblings all had to wait in the gallery. It was a literal gallery, as in above the main floor. So my daughter, seeing other kids playing on awesome equipment and wanting to join in, kept trying to make a run for it down some (frankly) rickety stairs, screaming all the way.
"Well just explain to her she can't do that!" the sanctimommies may scoff. OK, well you explain to a 2 year old why she just has to sit and stare at other children jumping on a trampoline for an hour. Or we can just let her watch Chip and Dale cartoons on my phone.
Because We Were On A Plane
Children are a lot like snakes: when they're on a plane, you do everything you have to in order to survive.
Because I'm Talking To The Bank Manager
People with kids have to do everything people without kids have to do in order to efficiently and effectively adult, only they have to do it with kids in tow. So when I have to run an errand to the bank, or talk to the electrician who's fixing something, I might need to hand my kid a phone, tap their favorite app, and let them go to town for a bit.
Because Their Sibling Is Napping & They Need To Stay Quiet For An Hour
I think we all know that even with the TV playing quietly in the background, this is a Hail Mary, but sometimes you have to have some faith.
Because This App Is Pretty Identical To Coloring
I mean, seriously, my daughter is clutching a stylus and doodling. If I gave her a stack of paper and a large box of crayons you would have nothing to say. But give her the same basic materials electronically and I'm subjected to all this tongue clucking and side-eye? Come off it.
Because I Have A Conference Call
My 5-year-old son truly believes he has some very important input for the next pitch meeting and he really doesn't and I can't have him interjecting.
Because They're Playing With Their Dad
My partner loves video games. They're an important part of his childhood and remain a hobby. An appreciation of the gaming arts (is that a thing? It is now.) is something he actively wants to share with our kids and I'm happy to let that happen.
Because I Just Want To Finish This Chapter
Hold on kids, Robb Stark and his army are at his Uncle Edmure's wedding to Roslin Frey, sealing the alliance he made with Walder Frey in book two. It's going very well, so I'll be done in just a minute, probably right after the musicians play "The Rains of Castamere..."
Because This Episode Of [Insert Show Here] Addresses A Relevant Issue In Their Lives Right Now
From potty training to fear of the dark to giving up pacifiers to handling the death of a loved one, TV, movies, and assorted apps are a great way to help a child process and vocalize their feelings.
Because It's Family Movie Night
Every Friday night we make a picnic dinner in the living room (often pizza) and choose a movie to watch, which is a special treat because there's normally a "no screens after dinner" rule in our house. (That's right, Judgey McJudgersons: we actually do have rules about screens and screen time!)
Because Screens Are How They Communicate
I would be remiss to write such a lengthy treatise on kids' use of screens without mentioning the kids for whom screens literally allow them to communicate clearly and effective when they otherwise couldn't. Technology is amazing, dudes.
Because My Partner & I Need To Grab A Quickie
Sometimes it's just not going to happen otherwise, people. You do what you have to and get creative.
Because They Need 20 Minutes To Decompress After School
My oldest just "graduated" from kindergarten this past June and one thing I learned is what a long day it is for little kids. Sometimes they need to have a little bit of breathing time between one space and another. My son would normally choose 20 minutes of video games when he got home and then would spend the rest of the afternoon playing. It gave him a really nice little breather to make a nice, smooth transition from school to home.
Because Screen Time Was A Promised Reward For Good Behavior
I know a lot of kids who earn their screen time with chores, good deeds, or other notable accomplishments. I haven't personally tried this but, hey, it works for a lot of people.
Because They're Talking To Their Cousins Across The Country
Again, technology is amazing! I can't imagine my kids would be as close to my nephews without regular Skype chats.
Because I Just Need 20 Minutes To Decompress After Work
Some things don't change just because you're not in kindergarten anymore.
Because I Need To Breastfeed Their Sibling
It's hard to chase a toddler around with an infant on the teat. Impossible? No. (And, honestly, with practice you get pretty good at it.) But why make it hard on yourself? You just had a baby. Let screens lighten your load, at least for a little while.
Because They Will Fall Asleep For A Nap If I Turn On A Movie Right Now
It's basically a recipe to get my daughter to nap.
- 1 Shade lowered
- 1 blanket (large)
- 1 pacifier
- 1 copy of Moana
Little girl is out cold before our hero has left Motunui.
Because It Was A Bribe
I'm not above bribes and I will never pretend to be.
Because The Main Course In This Restaurant Is Taking Forever
OMG, I'm not one to tell you how to do your job but how long does it take to make a damn pancake? Are you growing the pancake tree yourself in there or something? Here, kid, I know you've colored that place mat within an inch of your life: here's my phone. Have fun.
Because Can I Finish One Goddamn Cup Of Coffee?!
I swear I've been reheating the same cup for almost 6 years now...
Because They Are Legitimately Getting Exercise
This is an actual picture of my actual daughter in the throes of her latest love: Polynesian dancing. She would spend all day bopping around to any performance she can find. Any performance, like, random kids blithely giving a mediocre performance in a high school gym. She gets into it. As she would say herself, "Look mommy, I'm dancing with my butt! Awww. I love my butt!"
Because I Seriously Can't Today, You Guys
It's not happening.
Because Screens Can Be Fun, So Chill
In conclusion, screens can be a fun, useful, convenient, and necessary way to spend your time. After all, what are you reading this on? That's what I thought.