Monkey See, Monkey Do... How My Relationship With My Phone is Affecting My Toddler
‘I wanna to watsch chideos….’
Ignore it, ignore it, ignore it, I mutter to myself as I finishing changing my toddler’s nappy and try not to wrestle my phone out of his paws, as I know this will start an epic on-the-floor meltdown.
‘Mammy, I wanna watsch chideos…’
Distract him, Niamh, distract him! Be tactful. ‘Why don’t we colour, look here’s your crayons!’
‘Maaaaaaammmmy I wanna watsch chideooooos’
Blast, he’s like some kind of determined cyborg with just one objective, to watch chideos… I mean videos, on my phone. By the way, please tell me I’m not the only one who unconsciously drops in toddler-ese into adult conversations by mistake?
Anyway, back to the current dilemma… I try suggesting we go out in the back garden even though it’s Baltic out there, I suggest we have a yogurt, I tell him we should play with his garage, or that we have to get in the car and go to the shops… literally anything but letting him watch videos on my phone!
It’s only 9.30am for Christ sake! I shout inside my head. We cannot start the screen time battle this early can we??
Today, I cave and let him sit on my knee and watch videos (of himself by the way!) for approximately five minutes. Today, it seems to sate him and after the time is up we manage to get in the car and off about our business, with the screen time debate/arguments parked until later that day.
‘Screen time.’ I hate the moniker. Screens are a part of our daily lives now, they are a fact of life. Everywhere we look it’s screens, devices, fitness wearables and tablets as more of our lives go online. Unlocking our phones with a fingerprint or just our faces. Endless social media accounts, messaging groups, workout stats. Even school work demands the use of screens, as does streaming our entertainment, ordering groceries, meal planning, health; work, play, it’s all on screens.
We as adults are consumed by them, whether we like to admit that or not, we are. Some of it is necessity, we spend all day staring at screens for work. And then some of it is for pleasure, we scroll through books on our devices, look at Netflix, spend far too much time getting into keyboard wars with trolls, or just browse through social media laughing mindlessly at random dog memes or comparing ourselves to others through the prism of manufactured online world, on the commute home.
Screens have become absolute the addiction of the 21st Century. We’re warned all the time about how the young mind shouldn’t be exposed to screens, how it’s damaging. How we’re bad parents if we turn on cartoons on a device in a busy restaurant to stop a toddler going nuclear.
I get that screen time is the root of all evil, and I do try my best to limit it, but sometimes I just have to stick on Peppa Bleedin’ Pig for half an hour while I try and get the dinner made. It’s not ideal, I know that. And every time I do it, I feel guilty. I feel like I’ve failed as a parent again. Another stick to beat myself with later when I go up to bed and let my brain go supernova with all the things I did wrong today in mammy-land.
But, more than just sticking on cartoons on the iPad from time to time, when it comes to trying to limit my toddler’s exposure to so-called ‘screen time,’ I know I have to share a lot of the blame, because I’m ingraining the behaviour my demonstrating the addiction to it.
Monkey see, monkey do, right?
It’s like I can see myself in the evening, after a long day of mammy-ing and I’m trying to reply to an email without my toddler seeing me… or okay let’s face it I’m just scrolling through the gossip sidebars of shame. But regardless of what it is I’m doing on my phone, I’ve told myself it’s urgent. So urgent in fact, that it has to be looked at now, yes now while I’m trying to peel carrots and sing bah bah black sheep with him at the same time. I pick up my phone and yet I know the second he sees me on it, he’ll want it. And yet I can’t stop myself. I keep doing it. And every time I do, he sees me and wants in on the action.
What is holding so much of mammy’s attention?
I need it
Give it to me
I know a big part of it is my fault. I’ve got to get my head out of my phone and be present in the moment. I don’t want to look back on my life and realise I missed out spending these precious years with my little dude because I was too busy posting some vapid story on Instagram or trying to find that video of Gemma Collins face-planting herself on Dancing on Ice!
But I also know that in this era of digital technology that connecting with other mums online has been a lifesaver for me. Posting in a mums group on Facebook or WhatsApp has saved me from personal metldowns on more than one occasion.
But that said, I'm still going to try and make a conscious effort to put my phone away when I’m around my son, save the cat memes and mummy chat for when he's in bed or at playschool. Instead I'm going to put my phone down especially in the evening times when the battle for screens gets turned up to 11. I’m going to put it down and walk away. I’m going to sit down on the floor and play with my son, or chat to him while I get the dinner started, instead of having one eye on my phone and one eye on him, I want to give him my full attention.
I want to be present and in the moment and not lost on my phone.