Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Electronic Babysitter

M watching Wuddy on the iPad
Before I became a parent I totally judged other parents if they let their toddlers watch TV. My kid will never watch TV! I will spend every waking moment stimulating her brain with puzzles and art and books! Parents that put their kids in front of the TV are just lazy! They must not love their kids enough to spend time with them! Man do I wish I could go back in time and slap my ignorant child-less self.

Around the time M was 1, she started to really pay attention to the TV. She would dance to Yo Gabba Gabba, squeal with delight when Elmo came on the screen and say "choo choo" when the Dinosaur Train zoomed across the television. I didn't see anything wrong with letting her watch a few minutes every day...I was sitting there with her, she genuinely liked it. What was the harm?

It was at that same time (Christmas) that I received an iPad as a gift (aka the best gift ever). I loaded it with applications for toddlers and M was immediately hooked. She was learning her alphabet, her colors, and even learning to say words out loud. I was shocked by how much she picked up so quickly - by January she was even able to turn it on and unlock it, and flip right to her page of Apps. One of the first words she said perfectly clear was "iPad." We had created a monster.

Then came the infatuation with Toy Story that I told you about a couple weeks ago. (What began as a curiosity, has now blown into a full fledged obsession. There will be fits had when we are out and about if she asks, "Wuddy?" and I say, "no, Woody is at home sleeping." Cue the screaming and fake crying.) We have TS3 on the iPad as well as cued up in the living room. And we watch it twice a day practically (not always in it's entirety.)

I am will be totally honest and say that I sometimes use the television or iPad as an electronic babysitter. If I really need to clean the kitchen I will turn on Woody and let her watch a few minutes of it. I am in the next room, I can see her on the couch from where I am in the kitchen, and she doesn't move from the couch when her boyfriend is on TV (she actually sits there with her Woody doll next to her - I told you, obsessed!)

If I am totally behind with the laundry and need to do a few load, I will plop her on my bed with the iPad  for a bit.

Now, she isn't alone doing these things for hours at a time, nor is she in front of a screen for hours at a time, unless we watch a full movie, which does happen quite often, but that is never alone. But I feel totally guilty that I do this.

Yes I spend a good chunk of the time she is awake with her playing, or drawing or singing or some other brain stimulating thing, but sometimes I just need those 10 minutes to get something done. Queue the iPad or TV.

Am I a terrible mother? Are people reading this thinking, "how could you let your 19 month old watch tv? Or play with an iPad?" Do any of you do this too?
Be honest with me Mamas...


  1. I think this is yet another way for moms to guilt-trip themselves. The key issue is, do you park your kid in front of the TV for hours at a time every day instead of interacting with her? I talked with our EI person about this in the context of my younger daughter, but it holds for all children. In your case, no. You just have her look at it from time to time for a little bit, and it sounds like sometimes you are there interacting with her. Everybody has to do laundry and make dinner and you are not obligated to devote 100% of your attention 100% of the time to your little lovey, even if she is so cute and sweet. She needs to learn that there are other things going on. At one point in human history, you would have had another, older child or a relative to watch her while you were doing things, but today it has to be courtesy of Apple. I would not worry about it, as long as you are giving her a lot of personal attention the rest of the time.

  2. What you described sounds a lot like our house! I think a little bit is okay. Sometimes we parents need a few minutes to ourselves or to get something done. As long as she is safe and it is not for too long, she is okay. My daughter says "iPad" too, and has characters that she is obsessed with. I hope that the quality time we spend interacting and playing everyday counteracts anything bad from some TV/iPad time. "Everything in moderation"...?

  3. I admit it, my toddler watches Curious George almost every day. I am unable to make dinner and manage the two of them and by the evening I also just really need a break. So the toddler watches a few George stories and I juggle the pots and the baby until Daddy gets home. I agree with the previous posters that it is unrealistic to be 100% on all of the time, and while I don't think my toddler is getting anything out of watching TV, I don't think a small amount of appropriate TV is hurting him either. I think M will be fine with a small amount of Ipad in her day.

    I do, however, have very strong opinions about violence and sex on TV (especially in shows aimed at kids) and think it really matters what you chose to allow your kids to watch.

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