Childrearing

Pediatricians Say Screen Time Is Not So Bad for Kids After All, so We Can All Finally Catch Up on Hannibal

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Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 1.38.52 PMThere was a really beautiful period of TV-watching time right after my baby was born. I was breastfeeding, which meant I was basically stuck on my couch 18+ hours a day with a baby in my lap. I would never have survived that period without five seasons of The Good Wife to watch on Hulu. I watched so much TV! It was magical.

Once the baby started getting more mobile and nursing less and being awake more, I had to give up most of my TV. I had read so many things about how if we let babies watch screens, they will go to jail when they are 17 months old, and it made me paranoid. I covered the baby’s eyes if we even passed a television on the street (I took things a little too far). Once the baby was around a year old, the only TV I can generally watch with my partner is one hour each on Saturday and Sunday while the baby naps, and about half an hour after she goes to sleep before I decide I’d rather sleep than catch up on Grimm. I’ve missed so much prestige TV in recent months! Nobody tell me how Mad Men or Hannibal ended, OK?

This whole time I have been really wishing that I could just put the baby down in front of a screen, though, just so I could make a cup of coffee or do some work or yoga or something. But I’ve avoided it because I was convinced it would eat the baby’s brain. I did let her use Skype to talk to her grandparents, but I always felt a little nervous about it. (I realize I tend to be anxious and neurotic.) Now, however, pediatricians say screen time isn’t actually so bad after all.

According to Lifehacker, the AAP is updating its recommendations about screentime for small children. Previous advice said kids should not have more than two hours of screentime–Minecraft, TV, Facebook, games, etc–per day. The AAP said there should be no screentime at all for kids under two.

Now the AAP says it is revising those recommendations to more accurately reflect the way people actually use screens. Parents must still parent, of course, and not just leave the kid in front of the TV all day. But some screen time is OK, and experts apparently encourage parents to consider the quality of what the kids are watching.

“The quality of content is more important than the platform or time spent with media. Prioritize how your child spends his time rather than just setting a timer,” the AAP said. Somehow I don’t think that means it’s OK to just let the baby watch Hannibal, even though it is a really good show, but this is good advice that takes into account that there are different kinds of media for kids to interact with, and that it’s not as simple as just saying, “All screens are bad, M’kay?”

Unfortunately, this probably does not mean that I can let my 14-month-old watch Hannibal or Game of Thrones without worrying about turning her into Dexter, but it does make me feel a bit less neurotic about all the times she caught me watching Taylor Swift videos on YouTube when I thought she was asleep.