Mike Julianelle, the 40-something father of two behind @dadandburied, is our go-to friend when it comes to parenting advice. He tells it like it is and gives us a good laugh along the way, and especially right now, that's just what we need. This month’s question: My kids are getting too much screen time. Am I a bad parent?
“Help! With my kids home all the time, and my wife and I both working from home, we've allowed way too much screen time. There seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel, but I'm worried that all their time on tablets and TV has melted their brains. Am I a bad parent?”
—Charles V., Mamaroneck
If giving your kids too much screen time makes you a bad parent, consider me Miles Davis!
What I mean to say is: You're not alone. My wife and I are in a similar boat, along with parents all over the world. The pandemic has forced us to do whatever it takes to survive, and frankly, extra screen time is the least of our worries.
Our behavior has changed because our circumstances have changed. It’s okay if our standards change, too. We’ve all spent some portion of the pandemic indulging bad habits, whether that means spending more time in pajamas and less time exercising, or more time binge-watching Netflix and less time reading. It's called self-care! And children are just as entitled to it.
The pandemic has been hard on everyone, but our kids may be having the roughest time of all. They might not always show it—kids are resilient as hell! They may not even know it—therapists are going to have a field day unpacking pandemic trauma in about 10 years. But our kids have been forced to adapt to this unprecedented time in unprecedented ways.
Not only were they yanked out of school with no warning, they've had to spend the better part of two school years at home, without 1-on-1 teacher interaction, without classmates, without friends. My 10-year-old has been hit hard, and sometimes his extra screen time is what happens when my wife and I need some adult time. Playing Roblox online or having a Netflix party are the only ways he gets to interact with his friends. So, we cut him some slack.
Now, things may get challenging when it’s time to transition back to “normal,” or at least some version of it. And human interaction will be more necessary than ever. Some bad habits that were acquired during a year stuck at home may need to be broken—weaning them off the PlayStation is going to be on us. So, we’d all better dust off those parenting chops and get ready for a rough re-entry.
But until then, my kids can plug themselves into the Matrix for all I care! And unless you’re doing that, you’re a better parent than I am. At least you’ve got that going for you.