The Washington Post

Backlash against AAP guidelines on screen time for kids


We all know that the advice on screen time is increasingly ignored — the AAP acknowledges that the overwhelming majority of parents with young children allow screen time. For years, parents have typically kept this practice to themselves while experiencing varying levels of guilt.

The new statement, however, has triggered some open challenges especially to the section that discourages parents from watching television themselves if their baby is in the room because it “distracts the parent and decreases parent-child interaction.”

Rachael Larimore wrote of her contempt for the advice in “All Work and No Screen Time Makes Mom a Dull Parent,” for Slate. Rhiana Maidenberg wrote an appreciation of television in “Why It’s Really Not So Terrible To Let Your Toddler Watch TV,” for Huffpost Parents.

Another contrarian is Jessica Gottlieb. The popular Los Angeles-based blogger writes about the intersection between family life and technology. She has previously challenged conventional wisdom on kids and media, so I asked her what she thought of the latest advice. Here’s an excerpt of Gottlieb’s response:

“It SOUNDS reasonable. Kids learn from people, not screens, give them nesting cups while you cook dinner... blah blah blah. I’d argue that [the advice for parents to not watch television] is a little presumptuous. ... On what planet do parents spend every second of the day making sure a child learns?” Gottlieb wrote to me.

“As for the ridiculous notion that a toddler will play with a nesting cup long enough for you to prepare a balanced dinner for a family? Preposterous.

The guidelines sound reasonable but what everyone forgets is that when Mom and Dad are sitting in the pediatrician’s office getting [their child a] checkup, the doctor will talk to them about having no screen time until the kids are 2. The parents will nod their heads and say ‘Of course not’ and then go home and turn the TV on. This chips away at the relationship...

It is absolutely reasonable to say no more than two hours of media a day. In my house, the threshold is actually significantly lower than that and always has been. There is enormous danger in telling new mothers that they are not entitled to a break from their children for a few minutes each day. The most likely scenario is that a new mom will get about nine minutes of free time from a video for her child, but what if she’s able to stretch it to a crazy number like 45? I’m unwilling to agree that even 45 minutes of video watching will harm a child, but let’s assume that it’s simply 45 minutes of time where the baby isn’t busy learning. Is it okay to not learn for a few minutes a day so that Mom (or Dad) can do something for themselves like sit down, flip through a magazine, have a phone call or eat lunch? Are parents really not entitled to have a few minutes?

Not all babies are only children. If a second, third or fourth child is brought home, are the other children immediately to shut off all screens?

I could write a book (a terrible one, but a book nonetheless) about all the reasons we need to leave moms alone these first two years. Mom just took her life from 60 to zero. If she wants to watch “Ellen” in the afternoon and it helps her feel less lonely the AAP shouldn’t begrudge her that.

Happy moms raise happy kids.”

How do you feel about screen time? Is it banned in your house? Considered a necessary evil? Or embraced as welcome downtime?


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