The global pandemic and lockdown have raised all kinds of questions and debates about screen time for kids are common in many families. Should we let our youngest kids join in with all the online meetings?
Yes! Toddlers benefit from seeing their extended family. Let me tell you a true, funny story to prove my point.
FaceTime with Gran was a reward for poo
Recently, my youngest son, age 3, broke into the big boy life when he learned how to poo on his potty. Like many wise and discerning parents, we offered him huge bribes to get him to make this massive leap of life progress.
We offered him a bag of chocolates, time with a tablet to play a video game, and a walk in the park.
He asked for screen time with Gran, who lives about an hour’s drive down the road.
Once the little brown deposit arrived in the potty, we called Gran for a video chat. He was pleased, she was pleased, and we are ecstatic to be out of the diaper-changing world.
What is the Harm?
One of my concerns is putting my toddler in front of a screen. My youngest child is three years old. He is a bright boy with a big smile and a great sense of humor. I don’t want him turning into a vegetable in front of a screen for hours.
On the other hand, he understands who he is seeing on the screen. He knows it’s Gran and he loves to chat with her.
A recent study concluded something many of us already knew: not all screen time is equal.
Valuable screen time
My simple takeaway about screen time for my kids from that research is, “Conversing is better than consuming.” What I mean is that it’s good for my kids to chat with their friends and family online.
So, my three-year old can chat online with his grandparents, aunts, and uncles. He can meet them, engage with them, and wow them with his lovely smile.
Tips for engaging the little ones
My wife and I have been actively trying to help our kids engage with their extended family during the lockdown. Here are a few quick tips we’ve learned that help our youngest kids:
- We’re talking to people, not the phone, computer or the tablet. When we ask our kids if they want to chat, we say, “Do you want to go talk to Gran/Grandad/Uncle Bubba…?”
- Activities help the little ones stay interested. A short quiz round, for example, helps them interact with their families better.
- Short and sweet is better for us than long and boring. We have a bunch of kids so they take turns. The little ones get ten or fifteen minutes to join in the call and then they are off to do something else.
Don’t make life complicated. Parenting is hard enough. Turn on the camera, call the grandparents and let them wave at their grandchildren. Everyone will enjoy themselves.