Ask Titania: Am I a Horrible Parent for Relying on Screens Sometimes?
The other evening, my husband and I were just absolutely exhausted after grueling days at work. We didn’t have the energy to arrange an activity or do something productive, so we let our 7-year-old daughter use her iPad until bedtime. I know this isn’t the best thing a parent can do, but I feel totally horrible. What am I doing wrong?
Am I the Worst Mom in Wyoming?
Dear Am I the Worst Mom in Wyoming,
First, I wish I could give you a big hug right now. I know you’re beating yourself up over a night of screens for your daughter, but everything will be okay — I promise. The fact that you even care about a slip in screen time judgment shows that you’re doing the right things and are involved in your child’s life in a positive way.
We’re bombarded constantly by talk of the dangers of screen time in the media and even from seemingly perfect fellow parents. But life isn’t always that simple, and raising kids is 100 times more challenging than most people expect it to be.
You Are Definitely Not Alone
I talk to a lot of parents every week, and questions like yours are a common theme. We’re all just trying to do our best, and fortunately, we live in a time when parents have the ability to give their kids entertainment in a way that nearly every other family in history couldn’t. Sure, we’ve had televisions since the 1950s, but that’s about it — before the middle half of the last century, kids had toys and that was it.
Even if you feel alone, know that you’re not. Some families don’t have the luxury of constantly providing their kids with non-digital entertainment and education. Think about the parents who are also taking care of ailing grandparents, working from home, or have mental or physical health issues that prevent full engagement. In these situations, letting a child use screens is welcome relief to making life a little bit easier when it’s already hard.
All Screen Time Is Not Created Equal
When we were all growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s, many of us watched a lot of TV — and very little of it was great. Sure, Sesame Street is fantastic for younger kids, but by the time I was in late elementary school, TV consisted mostly of sit-coms and trashy talk shows like Jerry Springer.
One good thing about today is that there is SO MUCH good content created for children of all ages. Pixar movies teach lessons about understanding emotions, and young adult shows help kids understand the world better.
Also, apart from passive entertainment like movies and TV, screens also give kids the option to draw, paint, communicate with relatives, and play educational games.
There are worse things you could do than hand your kid an iPad (as long as you have the appropriate filters and monitoring and screen time limits in place) — especially if they have an interest in anything creative.
You Have to Take Time for You, Sometimes
In the whirlwind day-to-day of parenting, it's easy to forget yourself, and oftentimes people (incorrectly) think that you should completely lose yourself in the quest of raising perfect children.
But taking care of yourself is like filling up your gas tank — if you're running on empty, you can’t show up fully for your child. To use another metaphor, it’s like those videos on airplanes: you have to put your oxygen mask on before your child’s.
It's okay to acknowledge when something needs to give and for you to take the time you need to recharge your own battery. Remember, not everyone's life is as picture-perfect as what we see on TikTok or Instagram.
Embrace the reality of your own journey and all of its imperfections. Life isn't always about the highlight reel, it's about navigating the twists and turns with authenticity and resilience.
How You Can Stay on Top of Screen Time
Now that I’ve hopefully convinced you that occasional marathon screen time sessions are 100% okay, I have some ideas for how you can worry less just in general about screen time going forward.
Bark can help you not only create time schedules (though this is less of an issue for these one-off nights when all time limits are off), but it can give your daughter a digital safety net thanks to our monitoring tool.
What does this have to do with screen time, you’re probably wondering? It means that when you give your child a tablet that has Bark connected to it, you can worry less that they’ll get into any danger. This is because Bark scans online activities for potential dangers and sends you alerts. You may be taking a breather in the living room, but Bark will be right there with your child as they watch, surf, and text.
And I know that will help you feel a little bit better. In the meantime, try to celebrate small wins where you can. The days are long, but the years are short — and you’re doing the best you can. Give yourself some grace and don’t hesitate to connect with others in your same boat.
Bark is a comprehensive online safety solution that empowers families to monitor content, manage screen time, and filter websites to help protect their kids online. Our mission is to give parents and guardians the tools they need to raise kids in the digital age.