18 Mar
Do My Playdates Need to be Screen-Free?

Dear Mouthy Housewives,

My son invited a friend over (they’re 10) and the mom called me to confirm that I’ll pick both boys after school and to “make sure there won’t be any screen time” when they are here. I was so taken aback by her question, I didn’t quite have a response, except “of course not!” which was obviously the response she wanted.

Usually, I let the boys decide what they want to do (within reason) and I certainly don’t forbid their using the computer or the TV or video games (again, within reason.) Should I call her back and give the more honest answer? Or just forbid use of any and all electronics when the kid is over here?


Stop Screening the Screen Time


Dear Screener,

I always wanted to be one of those mothers who called ahead of a playdate to make sure that my child was going to have a wholesome experience, with lots of brain-boosting activities and organic cruelty-free snacks. Ideally when I picked up my kid, she’s be fluent in a new language and brimming with self-esteem and be on her way to getting an athletic scholarship or three.

And it could happen. If only the hosting parent applied themselves a bit instead of sitting back with a cup of that very special something and the newspaper, happy that their kid has someone over so that they can get a few minutes of peace already.

But I admit it– the other reason that I didn’t call is because when I start to think about all the questions that I would want to ask – do you have guns in the house? Anyone on the Sex Offender Registry? Anyone who you think should be on the Sex Offender Registry? Do you allow violent video games in the house? Do you allow people who have played violent video games in the house? Do you have any books by Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh in the house? Do you say the Lord’s prayer at mealtime? Where are you on the whole Lean In phenomenon? Who was your favorite Brady?

As you can see, there are endless questions that you can ask, all important and all offering insight into the family who will be hosting your child. Some parents worry when their child goes on a playdate. And of course, if the parent feels that there are one or two questions that are at the top of the list, then by all means. Ask.

But I I don’t like how this mom handled the situation. The way she asked about screen time did not lend itself to a discussion, but more or less demanded an “of course!” answer. The fact that she did it badly; however, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t call her to talk about it.

So give her a call and be honest. Tell her that you weren’t expecting her question and after giving it some more thought, you wanted to let her know that no, screen time is not off-limits at your house during playdates, but that it is usually for a limited time. That way you are being honest and she can make the decision that she needs to make.

At the end of the day, we all have to parent the best we can. For most of us, that includes trusting the parenting community we belong to to take care of our children. And us returning the favor.

Good luck,

Marinka, TMH

8 Responses to “Do My Playdates Need to be Screen-Free?”


Comment by Meghan.

Leaving the door open for discussion needs to go both ways. The mom who made the original call may have a kid who responds poorly to screen time. “Why do you ask?” in response to the original request might have brought out more information. My kid, like many of us, can’t sleep if he has too much screen time. So yes, you should be honest with that mom, but be prepared to see her side too.


Comment by Christine.

I think you should abide by the moms wishes. Maybe they don’t allow tv or video games during the week. 10 year olds are very creative, I am sure they can find a way to fill their time without having something to watch.


Comment by Leigh.

I think it would be one thing if the mom was calling to tell you her child had a life threatening allergy to scented candles and could you ‘put any away while he’s there’. But if you are calling to make sure that everyone you interact with is raising their children to your standards or preferences, I’m afraid that is a bit unrealistic and frankly a little unhealthy.
Of course you want your child to be safe, and cared for appropriately, but to call to ‘make sure there will not be any screen time’ is a bit rude. She should ask the question directly and then make the decision as to whether she is going to let her child out of his bubble accordingly.


Comment by suburbancorrespondent.

I think the mom who called handled it badly. While I, too, would have checked ahead of time on the type and duration of the screen time, I wouldn’t have just laid down a strict mandate. But, considering that some parents are incredibly lax on supervision of Internet use, it is reasonable to ask about what sort of video games are allowed. I don’t believe that the mom needs to spend any time entertaining my son; but she does have to be responsible enough to keep him off the Internet and to make sure 10-year-olds aren’t playing Call of Duty.

That said, the letter writer should inform the mom that video games are allowed and maybe ask which ones are okay. If the mom doesn’t like that, the play date still isn’t necessarily a no go. The boys might not care if they can’t play video games for a couple of hours. Surprising, but true…


Comment by Amy Wilson.

As you know, Mouthy Housewives, I have been mulling this over myself. Most of my own responders have said the original mom discussed was cray-cray, so that was encouraging in a way.

Just last week my 8 yo son had a friend over who I know has very limited screen time. After an hour of pleasant IRL play, they petitioned me very politely for some Wii time, which I granted them, to their incredible delight.

When the mom came to pick up I did feel obligated to tell her screen time had occurred, but this, but that, and be a little bit apologetic. She took it in stride though, and I think that’s the crux of this: when you send your kid on a playdate, either trust the other parent’s judgment. If you have reason to severely doubt that judgment, no playdate.


Comment by Vegas.

I admit it, I am strict about TV. Very strict. I’m sure my child will want to go on play dates just so he can watch some TV/video games. So long as it’s nothing that is going to give him nightmares I won’t have a cardiac arrest over it. Just as I hope other mothers don’t have a heart attack when I break out a box of cookies for play dates at my house.


Comment by kim.

Next time I would tell her that she can control everything when the playdate is at her house!


Comment by Jamie Budak.

So, that’s how you ensure the playdates are always at the other kid’s house. Good to know. Lol

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