Parent Q and A: Two kids, one parent, and a screen

Hi Rebekka!

I hope you’re doing great! I had a quick question for you. Lately my husband and I have been having disagreements on if a little Sesame Street a day is a bad thing? Or how much is too much? I know we’ve talked about this in class and I’ve discussed with other moms as well but is there something you can send me on this? Or in your professional opinion can you tell me your opinion / thoughts on this? I know we discussed how Sesame Street / Daniel Tiger were all good choices for toddles.

Basically long story short – my nanny leaves at 4pm and my husband is home around 5:30. During that time the baby usually needs to eat or get put down and my 22-month-old is starting to get fussy herself. I usually turn on an episode of Sesame Street and it kinda resets my daughter and calms her so she’ll snuggle with me so I can give the baby the bottle. My husband has been reading articles that say zero tv. Period. Just trying to find something to show him that it’s completely acceptable, especially when it’s only on a needed basis. Thanks and see you soon!

Sincerely,

Solo with Two under Two


Hi Solo!

To answer briefly, I think what you are doing is absolutely fine.

To explain further, you are doing exactly what I outline in my blog post on this subject: you are curating the content wisely (Sesame Street and Daniel Tiger are excellent choices. I share some other options on my blog, but these are solid mainstays of kid-centered programming.), you decide when it gets turned on and off, you are using the opportunity to connect and bond, and you are using the show as a tool to help you in lieu of the “village” that we are all sorely lacking in our modern age.  If you had a better option to help you manage two small and dependent children during the “witching hour,” you would use it! This option seems to be helping everyone (including you) stay regulated and get their needs met. As your children get older, you’ll have other options available to you and will likely not need to use a screen for this purpose unless you choose to.

The screen time limits published by the American Association of Pediatricians are extremely conservative, I think especially to warn of the dangers of overly relying screens as babysitters, teachers, and companions – screens cannot and should not serve these roles to the exclusion of human beings. Beyond watching shows on a TV screen, there’s also the matter of hand-held devices, and use of those under age 2 has been shown to curtail spoken language development – I’m not sure if the AAP recommendations separate out handheld device use and TV watching. 

Unfortunately, while I’m definitely in favor of limiting screen time (both TV and especially handheld use), I think the alarmism of the guidelines is entirely missed for the population who really needs to hear it, and only serves to create panic and guilt among the population that is paying attention.

It can be difficult navigating parenting decisions with your partner, especially when the decision largely affects one party. I feel there’s ample reason to support your choice at this time, and if you need any further support in how to express this to your husband, I’d be happy to think about it with you.

Take care and good luck,

Rebekka


For additional reading:

Rebekka Helford is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Los Angeles, California. With over a decade of experience working with parents and young children, Rebekka specializes in short-term intensive parenting consultation, using a variety of tools including home, office, and school visits to help families navigate developmental hiccups and get back on track.

Click here to schedule an appointment or contact Rebekka with a question – who knows, she might even answer it in her next post!


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