By now, the fact that screen time generally isn’t great for kids is pretty well-established and fairly universally well-known. Lots of studies have shown that huge amounts of screen time, especially for kids under the age of two, isn’t great for development, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends less than an hour a day for kids under 5.
Of course, on the other hand, real life is a different story. Some parents don’t get a spare moment to themselves, or to do tasks, without a little help from the tech babysitter. At the same time, sometimes families watch TV together and sometimes it’s part of the culture. And lastly: not all screen time is created equal.
What we also know is that mom-shamers love to judge any parent who pulls out a phone or a tablet for their kid in public, for any amount of time, under any circumstances. Many of these mom-shamers are people without kids who just know that they would never need to rely on screens if they did have children.
Lucy Huber — an editor at McSweeney’s and, if you didn’t know, one of the funniest parents on social media — got a big taste of that this weekend, when she dared to share that her 3-year-old son would be watching the Super Bowl with the rest of her family.
“My 3yo keeps asking to watch the Super Bowl tonight and I was like ‘no it’s not on until tomorrow and he was like ‘just turn it on now???’ and I just realized he has no idea what live Tv is,” she wrote on Saturday (the phenomenon that kids don’t understand live television or commercials is a totally other subject).
Down in the replies, the judgement was swift.
“Y’all are letting your 3 YEAR OLD watch tv??????”
Lucy’s initial reply was fast and funny, as usual (seriously, go follow her): “Found the person who doesn’t have kids.”
Yes, probably, definitely, true.
Later that day, she posted the criticism with a more thoughtful response, too.
“One thing about the anti-screen time narrative is it’s gotten so intense that people will criticize you for watching a sporting event or movie as a family just bc ‘SCREENS ARE BAD,’” she shared. “What should I do?? Not watch the Super Bowl?? Send him to his room alone??”
“This is why parents lose their minds over screen time, it’s so villainized even though like…hanging out with your family and watching a football game is obviously not bad for children and I may even argue is GOOD, actually,” she continued.
In the replies, tons of parents built on her argument that watching television with your young kids, especially in a family gathering environment, to watch a cultural moment, shouldn’t be looked down upon.
“I had a moment with our 3 year old a while back where I was stressing about screen time and suddenly was like…but I enjoy watching TV,” one dad shared. “And I enjoy spending time with him. Why can’t this be something fun we share? Something we do together?”
“People are so literal minded that they think the problem is the literal screen regardless of any context which is in fact a crazy thing to think, like being worried a camera is going to steal your soul,” another person quipped.
Another parent pointed out that not all screen time is the same (and this is backed by studies). Watching a specific movie or event with your family and conversing about it is different than parking your kid in front of an iPad for four hours (although, honestly, sometimes that is in the cards, for whatever reason). Watching the Grammys with your teen is totally different than them scrolling social media for the same amount of time.
Huber, who also has a baby, shared with Scary Mommy that this is far from the first time that she’s gotten shamed for having her kids in the same room with a screen.
“On Twitter, I get a lot of criticism for everything, but in particular screen time does seem to irk people,” she told Scary Mommy. “… One I remember was that I said I was watching Bones in the hospital with my 2-day-old baby and people were yelling at me that kids under 2 shouldn’t have any screen time. Which honestly just made me laugh, she could barely see in front of her face, she was not watching Bones. Another time a few people got mad because I said I let my 2 year old watch 7 hours of Dinosaur Train over Christmas break because the entire family was sick and I was 8 months pregnant. That was another one where I was like, dude, what do you want me to do??? I can barely get off the couch!”
Her approach to screen time seems completely normal, too. Her toddler can watch a little TV each day at home, if he asks. And he doesn’t yet have a tablet.
“I do think I have sort of this fear that my kids will become TV addicts because the internet makes it seem like their generation is just glued to iPads all day long, but in our experience my 3 year old really hasn’t been that interested in screens and would rather play outside or with his toys or be read to,” she shared with Scary Mommy. “I don’t know if that’s anything we did or just how 3 year olds are. Sometimes I wish hed just watch a movie for 2 hours and leave me alone but he never will.”
And Huber’s (very funny) initial point stands: were they supposed to lock their toddler in his room during the Super Bowl? Or were they supposed to not take part in a national event because it’s more screen time than recommended by a guideline?
Sometimes it seems like the only people so strict about screens are people who haven’t had to try raising a kid 100% without them.