V is for video

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!

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9 thoughts on “V is for video

  1. As a working mom I think that it has been rather easy to keep my daughter away from screen time. Sometime after a year we did start watching 30 minutes of Sesame Street once a week but I knew that wouldn’t rot her brain. The only time my daughter gets to do something on the iPad is when we are on a plane when we have a few games for her to play and some movies to watch. Otherwise, we really try to stay away having the tv on or playing with our phones when she is awake.

    I totally get how as a SAHM, this would be WAY more difficult. I also realize that it is probably going to be a little different once the second baby arrives as my husband and I may need some help keeping my daughter busy if we are tending to the baby (especially if only one of us is around). We’ll see.

    1. Yes, I noticed from your blog that you guys are doing very well with the screen time limits! Curious how it’ll go with a baby and a toddler!
      For the plane, do you have headphones for Izzy? We didn’t plan ahead for our last trip and SB was totally wired, so it was a little exhausting to follow her as she greeted everyone on the plane…

      1. Nope. I can’t imagine that Izzy would keep headphones on for more than 1 minute. She has been fine with just watching a movie without the sound turned up.

      2. Good point, SB wouldn’t keep them on either. I do wonder if she’d be interested in just the pictures… Interactive games might work better; if we do any long trips I’ll go look for some, but recommendations welcome!

  2. I’m working on a similar post. when my patients have to bring their kids to their appointments, it seems everyone’s go-to is to pull up a video on the phone. Most recently I saw a patient for an IUD removal and she selected a video for her 9 month old! I told her that it would be less than a minute. Kate was just over 7 months at that time and I felt that I could have left her old one of my socks and she’s be entertained. Many years ago I saw a five year old who was playing with her mother’s iphone… by pretending it was a phone! She was ‘taking orders’ and making deliveries by transporting her mother’s registration paperwork to the mayo stand in the room. “Is she too distracting” the mother asked? Actually she wasn’t, and it was so refreshing to see a child entetained by her own imagination.

    1. The comment about your sock made me laugh! Very true.
      I think digital entertainment is so convenient because, while you may forget to bring a book or toy, chances are you did bring your phone. And the kids are glued to the screen, even if it isn’t good for them.
      Right now, everything she can hold in one hand is a phone for SB. She says “hello” and sticks out her tongue at the L, which makes it even more adorable.

  3. I’m totally with you on this, btw. Chick is 9 months, but gets zero screen time. The only time he watches TV is when I need to cut his nails, because it is the only way to get him to sit still. 10 minutes once a week isn’t turning him into a zombie. (I think.)

    Still, he is totally excited by my phone. At first, I thought this was indicative of what a crap parent I must be. Then I realized that babies just like whatever they see you use all the time, and for better or worse my life revolves around my phone. It’s not that I’m checking FB every 5 minutes… I’m putting on music for him to clap to, making note of his nap times, or making grocery lists.

    I guess it is sorta like having a toy set of keys or remote control. They want what they see in our hands. And yet my motto still holds: “No screen time for babies!”

    1. Thanks for pointing this out. She always wanted to have the phone even before she cared about videos… so maybe much of it is back to “mommy’s favorite toy, so I must have it”. Same for keys and remotes, indeed! Still, I want to remain vigilant.

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