Way back when SB was tiny, easily a year ago now, we found out that showing her a video makes her sit still for long enough to cut her fingernails – and, as it was about the only thing that would make her sit through this, we stuck with it. I know kids under 2 are not supposed to get any screen time (which honestly seems unrealistic for the vast majority of families – do all parents keep all their screens turned away from their kids?), but I didn’t think a few minutes once or twice a week would harm her.
Except recently we hit this snag where she asks to see another video, and yet another. She’d scream when I had enough. A quick nursing session calmed her down, but I wondered what my husband did. “Well, I just wait until she gets tired of them”. Hm. I have never been able to convince him of the damaging effects of screen time, so this wasn’t too surprising, but certainly not what I want for SB. I also found her to be increasingly cranky, although it is hard to tell how much of that were after effects from being sick, or general toddlerhood.
Besides the crankiness, I was most annoyed – and worried – by her screams for videos as soon as my phone came into sight. If her reaction was this strong, maybe screen time was more problematic than I had assumed? Of course in a sense it was brilliant – while I had been making an effort to not let the phone distract me when she’s around, her behavior clearly showed that I was doing far from perfectly. But occasionally I do need (or at least really want) to text with my husband, check the train schedule, etc. (Let alone blog.) And I grew tired of watching the same 3 songs.
One morning when SB wouldn’t nap but I really had to take a shower, I thought I’d use her fondness of videos to my advantage and placed the laptop in a reasonably safe spot in the bathroom. Unexpectedly, she wasn’t interested, and rearranged the towels instead. So it wasn’t really the videos she wanted, but seeing them on mommy’s or daddy’s lap. (We tried reading books on our laps. Somehow this is much less interesting – SB loves books but starts flipping through the pages after about 10 seconds.)
I decided to put her on a “detox”. No videos for 3 days. And surprisingly enough, she was almost immediately less cranky. (Again, there are confounding factors like illness recovery). I had also noticed somewhere along the way that she usually asked for them in the evening. Perhaps for her, they were a way to calm down? She typically winds herself up and up and up, and it can be hard to spot the signs of tiredness (rubbing eyes, falling or tumbling more often). Maybe she hadn’t been getting enough sleep? Her morning fits would make more sense then… So in addition to the detox, I started putting her to bed earlier. And very soon we had our happy strawberry back. (Don’t get me wrong, she’s still a toddler and will scream if I don’t let her rummage through the trash, but otherwise she’s back to smiling much more again.)
After the fact I read this interesting study – it does sound a little scary. I feel a bit like a bad mom for not realizing that my kid needs more sleep, but overall I’m glad we sorted this out in a few weeks. I’m also still showing her a video to trim her nails – the first time it was no problem at all to take the screen away, yesterday there were more complaints. Maybe I’ll do it in the laptop, which I rarely use when SB is around.
There’s so much to discover away from screens!