I’m a little embarrassed by how ridiculous my partner and I were about keeping our baby away from screens. If the TV was on while I nursed, we would angle him away and turn the volume down so he wouldn’t notice. If I needed to respond to a text, I’d tilt my phone so that he couldn’t see what I was doing. His dad also happens to be a film editor so we were very cautious about the amount of work he’d do while our son was in the room. TVs at restaurants? Let’s have the baby’s back to them. Really, we were pretty dramatic about the whole thing.
Screen time is one of the few things you can semi-control as a parent. After breastfeeding sent us through the ringer, and after our baby still reigned supreme when it came to all things diaper- and sleep-related, screen time was one of the few areas where we could play the boss card, which we did with a fierce passion that dominated many of his first months of life. I can admit that, even now, we’re cautious about screen though we’ve loosened up (one set of his grandparents, plus his uncle and aunt leave many hundreds of miles away, so of course we’ve got to video chat sometimes. And by "sometimes," I mean many times a week).
Anyway, in name of full disclosure, here’s how intense we were during our peak of screen-time aversion.
"STOP STOP — STEP AWAY FROM THE SCREEN BEFORE YOUR BRAIN EXPLODES OR WHATEVER IS SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN IF YOU LOOK AT A SCREEN, I NEED TO GOOGLE THIS, WHERE'S MY PHONE?!"
If our baby so much as glanced toward any sort of electronic, I would immediately approach DEFCON level one panic mode.
It Doesn’t Count If The Baby Doesn’t See It
I’m trying really hard to not let our son ever feel like my phone is a priority, not only over him, of course, but really over anything. So I’ve found myself doing this weird thing where I will hold it down at my side while I check email, or I’ll text his dad while his back is turned, like it totally doesn’t count. Something about "if an iPhone falls in the woods, does your kid still want to play with it?’
If I Put My Phone Down And Look Straight Into His Eyes, He’ll Forget He Ever Saw It
If he does happen to catch me messing with my phone, then I’ll put my phone down really quickly and look up innocently, like I’m not a disobedient kid with wads of gum collecting under my desk.
If I Tell Him What I’m Doing With The Screen, He’ll Totally Understand That It’s A Useful Tool And Not A Flickering Distraction Monster
Things like, “Mom’s just checking the weather so we know if we should bring your sweatshirt,” or, “Mom’s just checking to see if her editor responded,” make me feel better, but I’m not sure how much it’s helping him understand phones more. Right now, he’s so intrigued by them that I think even if I said, “Mom’s just using her phone to DOG DUCK BLUEBERRY BALLOON SNACK,” it wouldn't matter to him.