Fact: parenting is a tough gig. Also true: to some extent, we are all winging it and doing our best.
It’s for these reasons that I generally try not to judge other parents when they do things differently to me.
But there is one aspect of parenting that I think we’re increasingly relying on, and it’s now been proven that it has the potential to screw up our kids’ health. I’m talking about our children using our iPads and iPhones.
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A new report has revealed that a two-year-old girl in China, who has been using a phone to watch TV shows since she was just one, now has irreversible eye damage as a result of her screen time.
Asia One reports that her parents were not strict with her screen time, and let her use their phones for long periods, as it was the only thing that calmed her when she was being difficult.
What does that even mean, “When she was being difficult”. When is a toddler not being difficult?!
By the age of two, the girl was frowning and squinting while watching the device, so her parents took her to the doctor, who diagnosed her with severe myopia (short-sightedness). The condition is likely to get worse rather than get better as the toddler ages.
This sounds like an extreme case, but honestly… how much screen time do your kids get?
And how many times do you go out to a restaurant or café and see children as young as two propped up in their high chairs, zoned out on YouTube clips of Disney characters?
When I was younger, simply going out to a restaurant was enough of a buzz to keep me entertained. The excitement of being somewhere new, of ordering off a menu, of colouring at the table, of being treated to “special” meals like chicken nuggets, was completely thrilling.
So, this is the approach I have taken with my kids. They’re aged 3, 6 and 9 and when we go out, there is not a screen to be seen. They bring their colouring packs and spend the time drawing pictures and making notes.
In saying that: I get it. Sometimes you really just need 20-minutes of uninterrupted, grown up conversation – a break from the relentless of parenting – and screens are the perfect tactic to achieve that.
Problems arise when that 20 minutes turns into 40 minutes, or an hour, or longer… or when it’s not the exception, it’s the rule.
How much screen time is too much screen time – and should parents stop using devices as babysitters for their kids?