Dear Mouthy Housewives,
I try really hard to limit TV and computer screen time with my kids. But when I set up playdates for them, I usually find out that they are just watching TV over at their friend’s house. Isn’t the point of a playdate to PLAY with a friend? If I wanted my kid to watch more TV, I could have just kept them home. Why do other parents do this? It makes me crazy. How do I made sure that my kids are actually interacting while on playdates and not just sitting in front of the TV like zombies? I can’t have every playdate at my house.
No Screen Mom
Dear No Screen,
I’ve been where you are now. And by “you,” I mean “the other parent.” Because I’ve invited my children’s friends over and yes, I’ve let them watch TV. I didn’t want to at first, but then my kids told me that the other moms were allowing it, and I just wanted to badly to fit in. I didn’t want to be the one mom who didn’t let the kids watch TV and play video games and therefore be unhip and old and mocked.
Kids like TV. Parents like to make kids happy. So imagine my surprise when I learned that there are actual parents who don’t let their children watch TV, and limit screen time in general.
Apparently such mythical creatures really exist. There have been sightings. Unconfirmed, but still.
If you are indeed one of them and it is working for your family, that’s great! But know that you can no more impose what the children do over at someone else’s house than the other parents can dictate what activities you set up for the playdates at your house. Their house, their rules. There are limits, of course. If their rules include target practice, I’d applaud your resistance. But if it’s an hour of TV, let it go.
From my own watching the kids while they’re watching TV experience, I can tell you that the kids do interact while watching iCarly. It may inspire them to develop their own web show! Or at least make snarky comments to each other, laugh together and just hang out. Sure, screen time is frowned upon by many of today’s experts, but I was weaned on Little House on the Prairie and Eight is Enough and I’m a perfectly well-adjusted adult. With four TVs in my home, but still.
Of course there is nothing wrong with telling the other parents that you are limiting screen time and asking for their support. A simple, “I prefer that Jack doesn’t watch TV during the week” when setting up a playdate is an easy way to alert the host to the issue. If she picks up on your cues, great. Otherwise, you’ll have to decide if the TV watching is a playdate deal breaker.