When you’re in the car on a long journey, out for lunch at a busy restaurant, or you just want to have a bath in peace – screen time can be a lifesaver for parents looking to sooth, entertain or distract their children. But the idea of ‘digital babysitting’ (using devices to keep kids occupied) is a controversial topic that often leaves parents feeling guilty or judged. With many parents admitting this is a reality of parenting in 2020, is digital babysitting such a big deal? We spoke to Holly Gee and Sophie Taylor, the duo behind Life of Mummies to get their views on the subject, and to find out if their opinions changed after having children.
The reluctant mum
Holly Gee, mum to two year old Delilah, says, “Before having Delilah, I was adamant I wouldn't let her use an iPad, iPhone or watch too much TV until she was a certain age. I had such strong views on screen time, and really didn’t like the idea of her using technology for the first year or so of her life. I grew up playing outside, using my imagination and being creative, as did all of my friends. There wasn't all this technology around, so we were just kids. I hated the idea of children glued to a screen and it worried me they wouldn't learn how to socialise.”
“Turns out, the second I had Delilah all that went out of the window! She was about 15 months when I began introducing screen time because I found dining out with her was becoming very tricky, with her getting bored and agitated. I couldn't bear the stares from onlooking restaurant visitors who were eating at tables around us. At the same time, all of Delilah's friends would be using phones and it was keeping them happy and content, so I realised it was just something I couldn't avoid anymore and probably wasn't really fair on her either.”
“I still don’t particularly like it when Delilah uses her phone at a table or spends ages watching TV. It will always be a last resort if she’s playing up and nothing else is working. I manage what she watches, when she uses digital devices and apps, but I’ve come to realise that sometimes it can be such a help if you need to get on and do something. To be fair, Delilah has also learnt so much from what she takes in digitally in terms of counting, the alphabet and shapes, and I’ve been surprised by how much it’s helped her development.”
“Having Delilah has changed my mind on using phones and apps to entertain kids. I would now never judge another parent for their decisions. I personally believe in setting screen time boundaries and think enforcing rules will benefit us all, including making sure parents think about how long they spend on their devices. Leading by example is very important to me, but I also know every family has their own set of rules and personal situations, so they need to do what’s right for them. Once Delilah gets older I know things will change, and arguments over TV and devices will become harder to battle but I will take the same approach - stay calm, continue to set boundaries and pray it all works out.”
The realistic mum
Sophie Taylor, mum to two year old Zackary, adds, “I have a little more of a laid back approach when it comes to screen time and have always been of the mindset that 'what will be will be’.”
“As a child, I would never sit still and found it very hard to concentrate. Ultimately this meant my mum often had to leave restaurants and social outings to deal with me. Because of this, I’ve never really seen screen time as something to worry about. I’m always very aware of others around me and if I’m out for lunch with my son and he’s playing up, I would always rather give him my phone so he can relax, and I can finish my meal without ruining everyone else’s experience.”
“Children nowadays can't hide from technology as it’s a growing phenomenon and, in a way, not being aware of or able to use certain devices can set them back in terms of knowledge, learning and even at school. As Zachary has got older, I have definitely noticed he has become more obsessive about screen time, asking to use my phone or sit on an iPad more often.”
“I definitely believe in setting rules and making sure that Zachary sticks to them, but also that me and my husband do the same. As my son gets older, he may well get into gaming or even become a YouTube star. And while I don’t particularly want to think about that yet, I reckon I’ll follow the same approach and stay as relaxed as possible with some loose boundaries. I know you can’t control the future. Since becoming a mum, I have definitely become more aware of screen time and the dangers of the online world, but I think as long as I continue to monitor his screen time and he respects my wishes, I can only do my best day to day.”
Are you worried your kids are spending too much time online? Vodafone’s Digital Family Pledge will help get your family find the right balance. Make your pledge today.