I always knew kids TV was crap. Lets face it all TV is crap. Our brains are just desentisized to years and years of damage its faced. Luckily, I was already vigilante of this before starting to give Yusra screen time. I had a strong instinct that I shouldn’t let her watch TV. Later, I read the CDC recommends no screen time for children until the age of two. Then, Yusra was born.
There are just moments in life where you need – need – to be alone and there’s no way to do so with a baby attached to your hip. This is where the television came in for me, and many other parents who are tired of being touched out – and tired. I discovered Zaky.
We would show her the same 7 minute video every time we needed a break. Or Yusra needed to cut her nails. I thought I was exposing her to nice, Islamic TV hoping her first word would be Bismillah. The video would end, the dishes would be clean, my bowels would be empty, or I’d finish scoffing down my meal – and we’d move on with our lives. There was no begging for more, no tears, and no meltdowns.
By the time Yusra turned 1, we were still going strong with our minimal screen time. I started experimenting with different videos, making sure they always had real people/animals instead of just cartoons and they were interactive. Sing-a-long with Tobee, Songs for Littles- Toddler Learning Videos, and an occasional Season 1 (Slower paced, simple story lines, and muted, old animation/colours) episode of Dora The Explorer. Soon, the daily 10 minutes turned into 30 minutes. Then, 30 minutes would turn into 45 minutes a few times a week. Occasionally, it would be an hour.
Yusra started pointing at the TV and signing more when it was off. She would cry when it turned off. Our strategy was to always do it before an outing so we can dress her while she was watching and walk out with her when it ended. When the TV wasn’t on, Google Home was playing Wheels on the Bus on repeat. Sometimes we’d say no when she requested for screen time – sometimes we’d say yes. That’s a part of toddlerhood right? Setting boundaries and teaching discipline.
This went on for about a year before my friend sent me Jerrica Sannes Instagram account one night. She speaks about the effects the screen time has on children. She encourages followers to discover their child’s baseline. Who is your child without screen-time?
My child – I realized while reading her posts – was not Yusra without screen-time. She was whiney, clingy, wouldn’t sleep, and never played by herself. She had many symptoms of a screen-time addiction and definitely had showed signs of overstimulation.
I had always thought she was just approaching her terrible twos. However, despite the fact that I was very careful with screen time choices and the toys that I had out for her to play with – Yusra had fallen into the trap of always needing entertainment. If it wasn’t the TV, it was the music. If it wasn’t the music, it was me constantly being out with her so I wouldn’t have to ‘deal’ with her at home. Of course she didn’t know how to play independently. I never gave her the opportunity to be bored and alone. She never had the opportunity to figure. it. out.
I had some serious work to do.
The first thing I did was unplug Google Home and shove it in my nightstand. I already loved Jerrica. She was saving me from listening to Eid Day – Subhi Alshaykh for the 60th time in 2 hours. Luckily, this was also the time our car battery had died and the new one took out the bluetooth/Aux and radio situation with it. So we had no choice but to sit in silence in the car until we decided to fix it. Thus, Yusra began giving us a full commentary on school buses and machines. The cutest voice with the cutest thoughts > Cocomelon tunes.
Next, came the hard part. No TV. Every time she asked for it, I had to engage in another activity with her. I began doing her hair by making her look in the mirror instead of the television. She asked me to be gentle instead of laughing at Boots doing the monkey dance. I began cutting her nails while her baba read to her. I stopped myself from engaging with her when she visibly didn’t know what to do with herself. And soon enough:
SHE STARTED PLAYING WITH HER TOYS.
I could leave the room and she would still be occupied with her ‘bebe’. She reads books in a cuddly corner by herself. She has conversations with the air. Her emotions are regulated. I could really see her personality shine through – her baseline.
This doesn’t mean Yusra doesn’t have bad days. She still has days where she’s begging for connection. And when she does – I give it to her. She is, still, after all only 2. Because she spends most days keeping herself entertained while being regulated – I have energy during her ‘bad days’ to give her what she needs.
In addition, Imad and I looooove our screentime. So it doesn’t make sense to deprive her of everything that involves screens. If she requests to take a picture on my phone, or scrolls through photographs of herself on my camera roll – I let her. And when there’s a really good Raptor’s game on and she hasn’t slept yet and will not sleep anytime soon – she watches with us.
We as a family want to get into the habit of less screen time. So it works for us to practice doing so. Yusra’s in the most developmental part of her life and we want to make sure we set the foundation for her to be able to think for herself. Creativity is something I see lacking significantly in children these days, and being a self certified creative person – I do not want Yusra falling into this trap.
Jerrica continuously talks about how parents’ are triggered by her content. But to me, it was a learning opportunity. There’s nothing wrong with parents’ who choose to let their children watch Cocomelon. Or any other show for hours a day. However, in doing my research – and experimenting with Yusra – I loved seeing the results using the changes she suggested. And its something I hope our family can stick with through the next few years until Yusra is able to make her own decisions.