How Much is Too Much? | Kids, Screen Time and Boredom Ep 2
Hi, and welcome to a new episode of the Mom Bosses Abroad podcast and today we are going to be diving in into the whole idea of screen time and children and what is your take or where do you fall within that spectrum or that camp or that team or simply that philosophy. So Desiree and I are having real mom talk- so welcome Desiree.
Well hello, hello and this is gonna be super interesting because you all know, Iva and I share absolutely so many similar values. We do things very, very similarly and intuitive, very aligned. Yet it's also natural, of course that we do things also completely different. So the other day in one of our conversations, I actually realized like ‘wow’, I mean we had loosely discussed this before, but never to that extent about screen time and giving your kids screen time and I realized, ‘oh my gosh, Iva actually has 100% no screen time policy with her kids’ and I never really just realized that and I said ‘Wow’ because I'm very different. So I thought ,you know what, let's talk about that. Because I'm also really curious and always to learn about what other moms do and you know, we always learn from each other and we have our different standpoints. I'm just super curious to find out and to have this open discussion with you Iva and I think there is no absolutely no right or wrong. We all have our different takes but I'm also always just open to be like, ‘Yeah, okay, let's see, let's learn a little bit more about that.’ So let's ask her
Let’s ask this mom, what is she on?
So Iva, what are you on? How do you do that? How do you really like how do you implement this? No screen policy in your home?
I know. I know. So I just want to I just want to start off by pointing out that I think that screen time is like a spectrum and I don't think it's an ‘either/or’ type of thing. However, there’s the spectrum in which anyone can be falling into at any given moment in time. I am really on the one end of it like definitely on the one end which is 100% screen time. Except for times when we do bring out a phone or an iPad to call grandparents, Oma and Opa and connect with loved ones that are abroad. Because we are mom bosses abroad_ where we are based is not where the rest of the family is based, right? And the way that we connect with our loved ones is through video calls. So I am just making that distinction for anyone that is thinking that my kids don't get to have a screen in front of them at all whatsoever, never ever and it has never happened. And then for later to find out that I do call my in-laws or you know, my siblings or whatever and that my kids get to see them on the screen. So I just want to point that out so that there's no pointing fingers later saying ‘oh Iva, you were lying. You are actually using screen time.’ So that is not screen time to me- what it is to me is bonding with family and a form of communication. What I do consider to be screen time is when I would be, you know, turning on a TV for example, or giving an iPad or a phone that has animation or a YouTube video for entertainment purposes for them to look at. Okay, so I just wanted to make that distinction. I think that's,
I think it’s an important distinction to make in the world we live in nowadays and being away right?
Exactly. So when it comes to that aspect of entertaining them with a screen, I am zero percent, like that is not the way that we operate. In fact, we don't even own a TV at home. We don't
You should see my eyes. Okay, um, yeah, let me ask you something because it's that is often tied to your own upbringing, though, right? I mean, how you how you carry that over to your own children. May I ask you what was it like when you grew up? Did you have a TV?
Yeah, that was the thing, that was the thing. So it's either when you become a mom, right or when you become a parent, it's like you either continue what you think worked for you with your children or you radically go opposite of how it was done to you with your children. Right? And you say, ‘No, it's not gonna happen on my watch.’ And in my case, I was born in an era, I sound so old, right? But I was born in an era where all these studies and concepts of TV time and what's ideal and how it should be modulated and regulated, did not exist. It was there. The TV and people turn it on and that was it. So I grew up watching a lot of TV I have to say because my parents plucked me down in front of the TV and because you become almost hypnotized, which you do. It's almost like you’re in hypnosis when you're watching TV. So I would be watching (I'm dating myself right now) but I would be watching at the age of five or four the Thriller video from Michael Jackson. Because MTV I think MTV started with music videos. And I would just be watching it with round eyes like ‘oh, this scary, you know, dancers dressing like zombies. I can tell you that, and people don't people don't believe me about this, and I had to google it because I thought that this memory was made up. And actually, it's not made up at all. There was a Jaws in 3d that came out in 87 in 3D- a Jaws movie. There was a 3D version of it. I still
I still remember memories from that movie
I was taken to the movie theater to watch it in 3D. And I still remember the last scene of that movie in 3D.
Oh my God. I never made it to the last scene. But I tell you that after that, when we did have school at home growing up and I was terrified to be in the corner by myself. Like I was. Yeah, it haunted me for a long time.
I don't think I was the one actually wanting to watch them but I was allowed to watch because I guess the TV was on, I would watch a lot of telenovelas. You know, in Latin America, you have a lot of telenovelas and they are not good. They are not good. The level of violence and language and it's just like adult situations, that you're exposed to, but I was just allowed to watch it. I was alone.
You were alone, though?
That's the thing. In my recollection, I think that adults were around but I wasn’t watching with them. And here's where I feel it might be different for moms nowadays who do allow screen time and they are maybe curating better content. And also maybe chaperoning the experience. Yeah, pointing out like, Oh, this is what is happening here. This is why this and that. I didn't have that_ it was uncensored, unfiltered, unregulated on all fronts. And I think that it shaped the way that a lot of how I was internalizing the world. And my inner dialogue probably was not the healthiest. So looking back, you know, I had to do a lot of inner work in that sense. Because there are things that I cannot pinpoint that happened to me because they were directly done to me by my parents or situations. But they come from being exposed to an internalized scenes and things that I would be watching where I was probably not being directed in a responsible way to say like, ‘Hey, you know, don't worry about this and worry about that.’ So, for me, I just didn't want to repeat that. Yes, I didn't want to have that mix. Yeah, I did not want to repeat that with my children. I wanted them to really have a much more age appropriate experience about the world as they're growing up and not just jumping places ahead. That's how I felt they'd happen to me so to your question, that's a little bit about my background or my childhood experience, and that's why I decided to go the zero screentime route.
That's interesting, I feel. I mean, I totally understand where that line of thinking and for your own children comes from. I think for my household like it was curated though a little bit because we were in a very no video_ of course it didn't have any on demand situations where we can pick and choose anything. We had to look into our little book what time is what, and my dad would often record things on a big VHS tape, too, but we were born in the last century though, when you think about it.
We were actually born in the in the late 1900s If you believe it,
But yeah, so then we watched things like deliberately when we wanted to watch them and not just anything that was in a way my parents had control in place, but they were very, like my dad especially I think he loved, he still loves watching TV and it was just a thing like a family affair as well. Like a
So I have another question. So when you decided though, to go that route with your own children, what did your husband say? Like what was his viewpoint? Because this is a decision. You have to be on board
Of course. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And it entails a lot of trust between the parties, because obviously sometimes, you know, he's alone with the kids and I'm not around and I have to trust the fact that we are all playing by the same rules, right? Not like ‘oh, when mommy's out it's party time, right?’ Turn on the screen and go crazy. So my husband was very supportive, like he understood where I was coming from and he also wanted in that sense to be able to have also that distinction of okay, what is appropriate to them and how can we really help in their development in a way that we resonated with.
And again, I'm speaking from my own experience, and this is a no judgement zone, we share our experience with a lot of, of respect and truth, understanding that other people might feel differently, right. So it's not like I just want to say like, ‘Oh, I did it because of this. And that's, and that's law.’ We did it because of how we believed we wanted our kids to develop in those early years. So we found a happy medium which was more books, right? Reading more books, having more books available at home. We both love reading I love books, I love to read, which is quite interesting, even though I was brought up watching a lot of TV for some reason, I did end up liking books a lot as well. So I think that somehow that just came into way. I really cannot explain why but my love for books is real. And I definitely wanted to pass that down to my kids. And the happy medium was they could listen to things
like an audio book.
Yeah, so there's a there's a_I think it's German. It's like a Tonie box?
Yes, we have that too! Yeah. I don't know if anyone else know, is a very German thing though, we love it. Yeah, we have
I highly recommended because then it gets to that happy medium where it's animated language and stories, songs and they can really fly with their imagination just listening to what is being said. So that was the route that we chose to take and thankfully Yes, and I'm happy that you brought this question up because it is important to align, to have that alignment between both parties. I mean, if you have a partner that is helping to raise the kids, right, you want to definitely be on similar pages and very compatible ways to go about it. For example, my husband sometimes can be a bit of a_ how can I say? You know, he takes the easy route. So sometimes he's like, ‘Oh, I'm too tired to read a book, it's too much of an effort to read or tell the story so let me put the Tonie box and problem solved.
I actually tried the other night and then Luca just goes like, ‘no way Mom, I want my story’ that is a non- negotiable.
Okay, yeah, so, for me, that was okay. Like I could work around him having that default mode. And for me, it was never a struggle to default to reading stories or telling stories.
Nice. I think that's so interesting, and I really I admire you for that. I have to really honestly say because that is a big commitment as well. It's a big commitment because again, all the children are different. Yeah, my what I just realized as well, my son and I'm sure your children were also similar at one stage but he was very needy, like, not in a negative sense. But of course, he wanted a lot of attention. You know, he was the only child that at that moment. And we I have to say we did introduce the screen. Just naturally was integrated, I think into his into his routine. I almost say not excessively Of course we like to keep boundaries, right? But I always find I'm on my own. I have no help. At home. I have no support network and such, you know, and there were so many situations where I said, I really need to just quickly finish dinner and yes, we do a lot of Montessori at home so there's a lot of involvement by Luca in the kitchen and everything but there's moments you just need to get things done quickly and alone and especially with the cooking and the actual stovetop and all of that. And there were that was just my life saving moments in a way, like here is your favorite show. And I'll talk a little bit about like sort of what we allow him to watch and a bit but this is your screen. This is like he had a look at my old iPad, you know that I prepared accordingly. And this is it and it gave me that 10-15 minutes to really get things done or quickly throw in a load of laundry because it's just faster when you can do it on your own without carrying a toddler or having them in the carrier. So then it was also a situations _so first about that, I'd like supporting me and like just keeping him entertained, but also I have a funny story about this in restaurants. Okay, so before I became a mom, I would see another family. We were on holidays, I saw another family. They were eating and drinking and drinking a glass of wine and the kid was in front of a propped up telephone watching. I would say: I will never do that. That will never happen to me.
And it will never be me type of thing
Yeah and I said that's family time. But after I became a mom, I just found myself doing the same at one point but then you're in the situations you've had a rough day. You are finally there. You are hungry, probably haven't eaten all day and you just want to eat and have just a moment of peace Especially I know and that's when my screem came out and I was like wow, I will never ever judge another one because you have no idea what happened before. What was the day like. That is a lesson and I had to catch myself when I looked at our family table and there was another couple childless couple sitting there is like what must she be thinking of me?
What must she be thinking yeah,
But those are exactly the moments where I find it helpful. And I have to say that I admire you because I cannot- like I don't know what I would have done. I don't sit him in front of the screen for like hours. Absolutely not. It's always gonna be have a boundary of course. And there's even nowadays, timer functions as well.
It is a huge commitment, I would say in terms of it is a longer timeline that you're looking at, to be able to get to a place where now we go to restaurants with the kids and there's no screen needed. Like we actually are able to sit down and have a meal together and nobody has a phone in their hands or a need to be watching anything. But it didn't happen overnight. That is true. And it comes with having that clarity and having that consistency and commitment into what is it that that you believe in so strongly and your commitment for not doing it so strongly that you are willing to sacrifice in the short term for the long term gains. For me that was definitely a very challenging time because yes, we had to limit the times that we were able to go out as a family to restaurants, knowing that we had kids that didn't really you know how to behave. They were age appropriate but they just wouldn't be sitting still at the dinner table like an adult. And so we had to limit ourselves in our exposure to certain places for quite some time until they were a little bit older to be entertained by crayons and paper and write and with books. So it is definitely something that I share in full transparency and I'm not going to sit here and say, ‘Oh, no, no, no. And from day one, it was so easy,’ They never missed it. No, what happened was that you know when they're young they are just being themselves and they just need a lot of attention or touching a lot of things and then you experience in a restaurant or eating, it's not going to be fun. One of us has to go out with them. The other one has to sit by themselves like it's not a fun thing. And so yeah, it's I would definitely put that on the balance and say, are you willing to work around that?
In my situation, one of the things that did happen that sort of allowed for that to not be too much a point of contention and too much of a sacrifice, if you will, was that my husband was traveling almost all the time anyway. He would go away for like two or three weeks at a time. And so we didn't really had that dialogue, ‘Oh, what are we doing? Should we go out? Let's spend quality time together’ because he was not around and I was mostly at home with the kids and I didn't really feel the need to take them outside. Like, why would I do that? Why would I do that to myself? I'm like, we stay here, we have your toys, you know? You can go crazy here and no one's gonna judge us.
So that has been my experience. It didn't work out that way. Yeah, and then I can say though, now that I'm on the other side because my children are now six and four, almost seven and five actually as we are very quickly. gearing towards birthday season. My birthday season starts in October from October till December is birthday season at ours so now I can say and this happened actually yesterday, we went to an Italian restaurant. And we sat down and we had a meal. And we had a conversation and we talked about our day and we shared and we spoke to each other and it was pretty awesome and I really loved it and that was my Northstar starting out at the beginning. I did want to be able to have that in my future and be able to enjoy those types of meals with my kids. And again, no judgment. I mean, other families do what they want to do and what they feel is aligned to them and to their family dynamics. And yeah, as you said at the beginning, I'm a mom now, I know what's on the other side. So yeah, I don't judge, I just say ‘You know, that is them. This is us. You do you’ and so we do it. We do it our way and that's the way that I always wanted it so I just want to share a little bit this quote because when you are truly looking into the zero screen aspect of life, if you really want to go down that route, I just want to share this because it's about commitment and consistency and sticking to it. And it's very beautiful the way it's written so I just wanted to share it.
It says “The secret of full commitment lies in the way in which you begin. It is the energy behind your actions that creates your future rather than the actions themselves. There is nothing that is worth doing in life unless it is done with absolute commitment. It doesn't matter whether you love it or hate it. If you attempt anything half-heartedly, you might as well not attempt it at all” and that's how I started off with my zero screen journey. I was fully into it and knew what I wanted to get out of it and knew why I was doing it. And my husband was on board and so it worked for us and that is our journey. Very particular to our story.
Yeah, but I love that and I have so much respect for that. And again, I really admire you and I you know now also talking about myself but also talking to some of the moms listening right now. That may not feel like they can do that is I came out of the situation that okay, now when we go to restaurants, it's fine you know, Lucas, super happy drawing and painting and we can talk to him. It's very different. When they're little you try to do that and you end up picking everything off the floor. Yeah, I found it very hard. Now in our situation we are a hotel family, and we used to live on property as well like hotels or just spend a lot of time in the hotels, which you know often comes like, ‘oh my God, we have to behave’ and there were definitely a lot of no kid-friendly moments where we had to be like he needs to be quiet. He just needs to sit there quickly. Let's give him something to watch because we need to be quiet and well behaved right. So sometimes they came out of that but of course sometimes it also comes out of let's just give them the screen. Let's just enjoy this meal with a little bit more quiet right so just when I say yeah, but I have to say that comes with a lot of mom guilt. So I did go through a phase where I felt quite guilty about that. Like you know what, I should make more an effort actually to bring a book and maybe read it there or like you know, talk more and engage more and do that and I should and I often took the easy way out. However I also I do set boundaries, and I do things like consciously so maybe that'll help someone as well. So we are a multilingual family, right? One way for me to use that to my advantage for the screens was to really really curate the content very well. So he did have his own iPad which was my old iPad like at a young age. Yeah, he knows it's not his, he's borrowing it but it was set up with age appropriate activities. So he could do lots of activities which were Montessori inspired or language inspired. But when we did let him watch things it was mostly through YouTube kids, they have actually the ability to curate specific programs that he can watch or your child can watch. And not just saying ‘oh, you know the age from like two to four, because there's so much silly content out there that I really don't want him to see.
Or scary content hiding in between seemingly innocent content
Yes there was this thing was in there a couple of years ago. Wow, that was really scary. And I always made sure I had the volume loud so I knew kind of what he was listening to. But a lot of them were_so what I did is I had special things that I saw I don't do like the fast moving like really crazy for eyes shows anyways, but it's more like the very sort of gentle colors like Daniel Tiger or like Ben and Holly, things like that. Yes, there is a Paw Patrol in between as well, but so I made sure like, let's say Daniel Tiger and Ben and Holly were all in Spanish all the time. Paw Patrol was only in German. Then he had a series of like children's songs and things that were only in German. So for me also mindset work here. I was like, ‘Okay, I'm letting him watch this. But it is it is supporting like a certain language right. He is then having consistent exposure to this that one of the languages we speak at home’ and I have to say he learned a lot from certain shows like, I don't know if you're familiar with Blippi, for example, very silly, but kids seem to love him. But it is very educational to some degree where they explain a lot of things and a lot of scientific things. So it took me by surprise many times when we were in the bathtub, and he's like, Mommy, do you think this will sink or float? Just like, I don't even know this concept of sinking or floating or like something about dinosaurs and I was like, how do you know about this which was like pleasantly surprising. Yeah, I'm not the one that taught him that but those are also moments that I felt a little bit grateful for, you know, like the content is okay, it's not bad and he's actually learning about it independently while I'm able to do something.
Right now with every family dynamic, of course, that shifts. he is now getting older. So he is able to entertain himself by drawing which now we always have a drawing book and like a pencil case with different colors with us whenever we go out and that's what he does. So there's no more screen. Of course, now there's another little one, which is because our age gap is four years so that's a bigger age gap. But now I guess she'll have the entertainment of her older brother as well. Yeah.
You know, and yeah, they entertain one another. That's true. If you have more than one obviously, it's fostering that social interaction that they do need. And as well solidifying those sibling bonds that are so important. I just want to throw out there something that I see time and again with my clients, and I think we have also discussed it in previous episodes in our podcast about boredom and kids and how we tend to collectively- and a to put myself in the same bucket as well-to be afraid of boredom. And to think that if our kids are bored, we're doing a bad job or we're not doing it right somehow, right?
Because then it's like we feel annoyed. It triggers us because we say how can you have so many toys and things and you're still bored and then we take it upon ourselves to be the entertainment for them or to really get them out of that boredom. And what I just want to say is embrace it. When children are allowed to be bored they can actually learn a lot about themselves in the process. And sometimes we need to make that mindset shift that when a little voice comes up and they say “Mommy, I'm bored.” Be happy about it. You know? I know it's been a long day, you're hungry, you know all the things like the to-do list and you're like, ‘oh my God, another thing on my plate’ but it's not another thing on your plate. Give them the opportunity to find something that will entertain them. And if you believe that they will, they eventually will. It's like a self-fulfilling prophecy. But if you nip it in the bud, and you say ‘Here, let me show you this or here let me show you that’ and you immediately don't allow them to internalize what boredom feels like by wanting to help out and solve the problem, then it really ends up being a bit of a disservice. Because I see it later down the line with my clients who come to me and they don't really know what they truly want in life,it becomes a bit of like, what do I want? I don't know it was not really fostered that much or stimulated at home because there was always something in front of me, on my face, meaning like there's a screen in front of me but there was always something like an activity or let's go here, let's do that. Let's do this or someone was always you know, doing something. And let's just allow ourselves to get them bored. Allow them to get bored so that they can discover what lights them up, what they like to be entertained with. So boredom is a good thing. That's my bottom line. I have seen my son. I kid you not, I have the pictures that prove them. I sometimes have them in my stories, where he is “reading” and I put it on air quotes a Lego manual, and he's entertained by it. And you wouldn't believe like the 10 minutes of peace that I have. He's reading a Lego manual. Yes. And I'm like, ‘Yeah, that's what it is about’
I know now I love it as well. I mean, it is the things they play in the imagination that comes out is incredible. So yes, even though my kid has a screen, growing up a screen kid, but he does have that now you know, is really able to entertain himself, which he really didn't before it was always ‘mommy, mommy play with me, play with me, play with me.’ Until I was like ‘I cannot, I have to finish your dinner otherwise we don't have anything to eat.’ So it was like out of these necessary moments. But now it's just beautiful like you said to watch them. Like really plays so wonderfully with things just things they find or collect from outside or the Lego box which is amazing.
I have seen my children play uninterrupted for 20 minutes with a plastic bag. Yeah, yeah, no, they just throw in the air
Yeah the non toys.
I just monitor that they you know, plastic bags are a choking hazard and you know all of that, but I'm around but I just I just see them and it's like the most random objects they can really make something out of it like a really fun experience for them. So if you are considering the no screen route, please note that boredom is part of it. It's going to be part of the equation and embrace it. It's actually what it entails. And as you say, make sure that you are on board with your partner, with your spouse and also understand what is the dynamic and the situation at home, whether it will support or really make you feel like you're failing, right? Because it's not about feeling like we're failures. It's about feeling that we're thriving and that we're going into the direction that we want. So to make that detective work and say “Are we in a stage where we can manage it and not go crazy in the process and we stick with it”
I was gonna say because otherwise you may just make your life harder and you might get frustrated. So it should always come from a place of joy and like a complete commitment. And as Iva mentioned at the beginning, there's a very broad spectrum. You don't have to be on the very extreme ends of it. You can find a very happy medium that everyone's happy with. And as long as everyone's happy and it's balanced then then that will be the right thing to do for you as a family.
Yes, yes. And kudos to you. We are rooting for you. And we think that you're awesome in everything that you're doing. So keep up the amazing work.
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Episodes Mentioned: Episode 11, Season 1, Myth Busters| Can Boredom and Kids Be a Winning Combo?