It’s brutal to watch parents pit themselves against one another. And yet these days, if you happen to be nearby when the subject of household rules around screen time comes up, you’ll likely have a ringside seat. That is, unless you find yourself against the ropes, maybe even throwing the punches.
Today’s parents are critical of each other across a wide swath of house rules and philosophies -- brawls that might very well upend preexisting friendships go well beyond screen time debates. This is probably not a whole lot different from generations past, but the discord is worn proudly which feels new. This article shines a light on screens in particular, highlighting the debate over how much is too much. But more than that, it normalizes – or at the very least calls out the routineness of – the feeling of being judged by other parents. Strict anti-screen families are referred to as “vegans of the parenting world.” That’s not meant as a compliment.
When it comes to screens, at least, no two families approach the issue quite the same way. And why should they when guidance by experts is ever-changing? Social media studies look at platforms that, by the time the articles launch, have lost point position among younger users. Stats about cell phone and other mobile devices often lag by a year or two, so the somewhat shocking statistic you might have just heard (for instance: average age of first device ownership in this country is 10.3 years) is way old (that is 2016 data). How about games? Forget those, too. The newest round of questions I am getting from parents is about the game Fortnite, but how could there possibly be any data about it? It launched last July and as a perfect testament to the rapidity of the shifting culture, in December the game had already been downloaded 30 million times; by January that number stood at 40 million. That was a whole eight weeks ago!
There is no right or best way to parent. But more than that, in this evidence-driven culture, it is nearly impossible to prove the superiority of a given path – or even a single rule – amidst landscape shifts happening at breakneck speed.
Without clear guideposts, we are all left making up rules as we go along. It’s high time we shine a light on that. Let’s stop judging each other, rolling our eyes, dissing one-another’s rules. We are all flying by the seat of our pants, trying the very best we can to do right by our kids. We all want them to thrive. Show me a parent who doesn’t invest endless energy desperately trying to do what’s best for their kid? So enough already with the negativity. We all need to stop throwing other parents under the bus or even just throwing them shade. In the world of pediatrics, there’s one thing doctors know for sure: our kids do as we do, not necessarily as we say. Think, for a moment, about what we are teaching by doing. It isn’t pretty.