December 6, 2022

Screen Time and Kids - Is Personal Judgement Judgmental?

My writing club this evening turned into a life-catch-up club.  It was great, but poor N did not get too much writing done.

Of the myriad topics covered, much linked back to shame and parenting choices.  The question I'm currently musing is as follows:

We do not do screens for our kids - ipads or tablets or smartphones.  Sometimes other parents will suggest tablets for entertaining kids, usually in the context of "oh, that's a long car ride! Just get the tablet out" or "we mainly use tablets at [restaurants/errands/boring things]".   If I say "oh, we don't do screens" the other parent either thinks we're weird, or they feel the need to defend their actions... "Oh we don't use them much, but they're helpful for the [car/errands/dinner]".  

Is there an answer which isn't judgmental to the choices of others?  Or is the choice I've made to limit screens inherently judgmental of those who don't?  In my judgement, limiting screens is the best for my children.

I don't judge them for their values, but I don't judge their values as being best for my kids.

Is that just a semantic difference?

I am lucky as my kids are so young, and I know the stakes will change quickly as they get older.  

Perhaps I mostly avoid these awkward discussions by already being the weirdos in the smartphone free house.  Once people know we don't do Whatsapp or social texting they don't think it's odd that we don't give screens to our kids.  

I find it weird that the normal analogue childhood of 1990s is now, to some, an unnecessary effort bordering on extremist technophobe.  Was 1990s child rearing was so intolerable for parents that we must use screens now to avoid inflicting the same on ourselves?  Or am I the luddite who laments the arrival of printed books as destroying the memorised story?  
This photo is unrelated to my post, but I went for a lovely walk outside my house yesterday in an attempt to recover from my GWI (Generic winter Illness).  The walk cured me.   Being outside is about the best drug there is (for GWI).  Also, my 17c/62f degree house felt a lot warmer after being outside.

this weather is highly unusual here.  Normally we get 3 months of 50c/10f and rain. Not this:


  1. If others see your decision as being judgemental then I think that's more on them, possibly they're second guessing themselves? Anyway you need to do what works best for your family. My kids were young before ipads so this was never a thing for us. If we were out for dinner they might take something to draw or colour. I'm glad we didn't have thet option of portable screens when they were younger but even once they got older and our son got an ipad in grade 4, we still would not allow them at the table. I prefer to interact as a family. We did get a DVD player with seat back screens for a trip interstate which took two ten hour days, but that only came out again for trips longer than 3 hours.

  2. I aspire to parent like it's 1986.

  3. This is a really thought-provoking post. I try really hard to ascribe to the philosophy that everyone gets to make their own choices, and different from me does not mean bad... but I have definitely been on the other side of that equation and felt like someone is judging me for my choices. Like... if someone mentions that they would never give Lunchables to their kid, I definitely feel a little panicky/judged because Lunchables are one of the few things my kid will eat. But really it shouldn't matter! At all! Outside of abuse and neglect, there are thousands of valid ways to raise a child.

    (Since I find screen time topics interesting, I will say that we allow screens in moderation. On weekends, on long car trips (although my kid gets car sick when she watches her ipad too long, so we put strict limits on it), during airplane flights, and when she's sick. But I also HATE screens and our over-reliance on them, and am constantly trying to get us all away from screens and out into the world. Or at least to the table to play a board game.

  4. 2 things come to mind: 1. It's OK to judge others because our choices DO affect each other and the kind of world we're building and the kind of people who live in it. It;s a dangerous myth of capitalism that we are disconnected and can choose to live however we life. 2. People really feel; insecure ion their choices about screens for kids, and that's probably where the prickly feelings are coming from. (I give zero effs but this is because I am an academic and my colleagues study screen effects and kids, so I feel like I am truly making informed choices LOL.) But there IS a sanctimonious element of telling ppl you don't do screens, especially since SO MANY ppl use them as in-home KNOWING that that's not how, say the AAP or media effects researchers think they should be used. You know?

  5. I agree that people probably feel judged because they are insecure about their decisions. I never had to make this decision, my daughter is an adult. Screen time for her was watching video or PBS, or sometimes playing a video game. We did allow it, and felt OK about that decision, but we limited it to 1/2 hour a day for many years. Of course, we’re all hooked on our screens now, I’m on my iPad right now.

    I can’t log in to comment, this is J at

  6. I honestly don't envy you for parenting in 2022... I think what you're doing is great and I'd think I'd choose the same if I had kids, but it must be difficult to be the exception, not the rule in this day and age. I think other people getting defensive is a sign that they generally agree with your stands on screens but don't really want to do the work and enforce it themselves.