Bringing up screen time around parents elicits many responses. But the most common one is probably guilt. Not guilt that we let our kids use them-because most of us do. Guilt that we enjoy the blissful moment of semi-quiet that the magical glowing square affords us. My generation grew up with parents warned about letting the TV babysit. Now we have so many different devices we just lump it all together and call it “screen time.” While the American Academy of Pediatrics has it’s own rules…er suggestions…on this topic- I have one unbreakable rule regarding it.

I am the keeper of the tablet. 

You could also apply this to the TV remote, laptops, desktops, and smart phones. But the tablet seems to have a particularly strong pull on my little tech monster. The tablet lives with me in my room and I am the gatekeeper. Why not just leave it in his room so he can have easy access?

He doesn’t even know I’m in the room

A five(6,7,8…) year old has no self control. 

You know how hard it is for you- a real grown up with a well developed-ish brain- to resist that beautiful donut with sprinkles sitting out in the office break room? I’m thinking it’s harder for my 5 year old to limit himself when it comes to something he really enjoys. I’ve clocked him in at unspeakable lengths of time playing Lego Jurassic World (seriously, I’m not telling) and yet every.single time I tell him to wrap it up he says one word. ALREADY?? Time loses all sense of meaning and he would stare into that little screen for an eternity. Children will not set these limits by themselves, and we shouldn’t expect them to. Let them enjoy it and then help them move on. 

You can save the tablet for when you absolutely need it the most. 

I’ve deployed this no fail distraction solution so I can get an emergency eyebrow wax, breastfeed the baby in public without the oldest saying things like “mom’s taking her boobs out again” (yep), or even shamefully to avoid one more conversation about dinosaurs. ( I don’t care who would win in a fight between a giganotosaurus and a spinosaurus. I.don’t.care. I DON’T CARE.) You get to decide what warrants tablet time, but it is oh so nice to have it on standby. 

She who holds the tablet holds the power.

Like, all the power. I’m all about choosing your discipline strategy based on what works for that specific child. I can already see that I have two very different kids on my hands and what works for one will not work for the other. But with my oldest, the mere threat of losing tablet time is enough to turn that frown upside down. I use this to my advantage often. I also promise extra tablet time for doing things I want him to do. I understand this is bribery. I’m OK with it. I’ve moved on. 

I suspect constant distraction kills creativity. 

Most important to me is this: when I see my little one on a tablet I see a mind and body mostly at rest. A mind relying on being entertained by other people’s stories and ideas. I’m fine with that every once in awhile- but I want him to have his own ideas and stories. What if letting him play that extra 20 minutes on his tablet was the time he needed to learn to build an awesome sheet tent for his stuffed animals? Or color?  Or just lay on the couch and stare at the ceiling and be OK with not being distracted. This goes for us grown ups too. I know it is easier for me to scroll through social media mindlessly than to do anything else. I don’t want to take the easy route- and I don’t want my son to either.
I’m not even close to a doctor. I know there are many smarter, more educated people out there that could give you exact screen time parameters and advice. But this is how I see it- gleaned only from the anecdotal evidence I’ve complied on my first little case study. I could be 100% wrong about this. Maybe all he rules we have are overkill, but in my gut I feel I should help him build his capacity for creativity and imagination- not shrink it. So I’m going with my gut and setting boundaries around the tablet. And when I do let him play, I promise to send the guilt packing and just bliss out on my fleeting moment of silence.