Nothing can divide parents quite like the discussion of technology use among their kids — what to use, how often to use it, and whether or not some parents are "terrible" or "lazy" for relying heavily on tablets. I might be risking ire from the internet, but my big, dirty parenting secret is that I let my son use a tablet all the time. I know, I'm clearly the worst parent in the world. My apologies.
While it started as a way for him to watch a few cartoons here and there, it's now become a really lovely part of our day together. Sometimes we play records and listen to music, sometimes he plays educational games, and sometimes we watch one of his favorite shows. He's 2 1/2 years old, and over the last few months of his increased screen time, I've noticed a few things about why his technology use never bothers me. These are the five most important reasons I let him have screen time.
- It can be educational. Yes, there are a ton of "junk food"-like programs on the internet that have zero educational benefit, but there are also thousands of videos that are designed by educators and specialists to teach a particular age. Thanks in large part to these videos, my son knows all the major colors and shapes, can count to 10, and knows all the letters of the alphabet with a corresponding word that matches that letter. I don't think my son is special or an exception in any way, but I do think that these silly shows have helped him with his preschool readiness.
- It promotes technological literacy. Besides saving me from having to decode which Little Baby Bum episode he wants to watch, he's already become adept at navigating a difficult device at a young age. Technology isn't going anywhere, and if he can solve this puzzle now, he may be more equipped to handle future technology and problem-solve later.
- It helps him connect with family. Grandparents, aunts, and honorary family members are stretched across the world. Even though he may not see "Seattle Papa" more than once or twice a year, he still gets to have a close relationship with him.
- It gives us both a chance to relax. We expect a lot from toddlers — go here, do this, be quiet, don't touch that. At the end of the day or a long excursion, anyone, including them, could use a little tablet time to relax. If my husband is able to make us a meal that we can all enjoy together and I can clean the house while my son plays with his tablet, who cares if it was thanks to a little TV?
- It's my decision as a parent. If you don't want your kid to use a tablet, that's your decision. This is mine, and that has to be part of the conversation. I trust that you know what's right for you and your family, so it shouldn't be so hard to extend others the same courtesy.