Well, this is a hard topic to write about. Darrell and I were “those” parents that said we would never let our darling child have any sort of screen time. Screen time was for LAZY parents. And we would scoff at our friends would let their children watch anything they wanted on TV or be glued to their own iPad by the age of three years old. We were obviously preaching the preach of the uninitiated. And then we had a child…
Darrell and I never actually used to watch television, it was a goal for our marriage to always sit and eat dinner at the table and to never have the mindless drone of a TV as the background noise to our life. We read lots of books and would watch a DVD of a series every now and then. It worked really well for us and we vowed that Elijah would be the same. We lived in a big beautiful Victorian home in Tulbagh and there were always more important things to do, like sand a 100-year-old floor down or feed the chickens. Life was very busy and meaningful.
Did you know that once the screen has been put off, their brains are still actively processing what they saw on the screens for two and a half hours after, even if they have fallen asleep and are therefore not getting nearly enough sleep?
Elijah and I moved to Cape Town when he was one day short of his first birthday. He had never watched anything on a screen before. I brought his nanny from Tulbagh to live with us for a bit and to help us settle in. She had had a television at her home previously and I thought it might be a bit mean not providing one for her here in Cape Town. So I had one installed. Elijah still had not watched anything and he knew that cell phones were for grown-ups. I am still quite glad that he does not know that there are things like games on phones and iPads.
But then the inevitable happened, he got a nasty virus and was on bedrest. Well, I am not sure about you but bed rest for a two-year-old is almost impossible which is where I relented and let him watch a little bit of television. That little bit grew until he was watching something every night. I was relieved at having a little bit of me time in the evenings and Elijah was very happy and getting addicted to Paw Patrol.
This past Monday we had a talk at Elijah’s school by an occupational therapist. The main thing that I took away from that was that to develop healthy minds toddlers Elijah’s age need at least thirteen hours of sleep in a day. And if they are having screen time before bed, once the screen has been put off their brains are still actively processing what they saw on the screens for two and a half hours after, even if they have fallen asleep and are therefore not getting nearly enough sleep.
We immediately went cold turkey on all screen time. The first few days were a breeze but he has now started whining a little bit to watch Fireman Sam. Well, I just endeavour to keep him very busy and am learning new ways to distract him by the minute. I am hoping that I can stick to this and I know that Darrell would very strongly agree with this. After all, we did not have a child for him to sit down in front of the television eating dinner alone. This is not the picture I had in my mind when I was dreaming of having a family. I know this will have its ups and down so wish me luck!