It’s probably true that my children have more screen time than they should. I closely monitor their tablets – what they’re playing, what they’re watching – as well as how much time they’re spending on the devices. Mostly it’s just during the day so I can get my at-home workout in and take a shower. Sometimes a little more when I have some work to do and sometimes a little less. I’ve come to a guilt-free understanding with myself about how much screen time they get and I am totally okay with my choice.
That wasn’t always the case.
There was a time where I would allow my kids to play on their tablets for twenty minutes before bed. It seemed like a good winding down activity. While I got their pajamas ready or cleaned up dinner, they could happily zone out to a show or a game as a way to calm down and relax before bed.
Then science got in the way.
You don’t have to google for too long before you discover that the blue light emitted from tablets tends to trick our brains into staying awake, be more alert, even after we put the device away. It’s true for adults and it’s true for kids. I began to realize that maybe my kids’ inability to go right to sleep had more to do with end of the day screen time and less of the classic “I’m not tired!” hysteria. That was the first reason I cut it out.
The second reason is much more heartwarming. I took that time they were spending by themselves with an iPad, and turned it into family time. Now we hang out as a family. We hug and tickle and read books and talk and tell stories. We spend quality time with one another before they’re put to bed.
While I’m at peace with the amount of time my kids spend with electronics, I can inarguably say that tablets and bedtime do not mix for kids. Not only does it mess with their natural sleep cycles, but it also steals time that we could be spending together. Now instead of our evenings dissolving into solo time for each of us, they end with laughing and smiling and bonding. My children get to go to bed with their last memories of the day being of cuddling on Mom’s lap instead of watching Daniel Tiger.
These years matter. These moments matter. These choices matter. And choosing for all of us to put down our screens and be present with my children before they go to bed is one of the best choices I could make.
Toni Hammer chronicles her mommy misadventures at Is It Bedtime Yet? and spends too much time on Facebook and Twitter. She writes for Scary Mommy, Babble, The Huffington Post and other sites that she can’t remember because she’s exhausted from being a SAHM to two toddlers. She drowns her mommy guilt in copious amounts of coffee and Diet Coke.