Toddler's Screen Time Obsession Leads Mom to Ditch Her TV—Is That the Answer?
One mom reached her wit's end over her 2-year-old's demands for TV time. “My son and I have really got ourselves in a rut,” Parther05 wrote on Reddit’s r/Parenting forum. “We get up, he asks to have the TV on—its a show on YouTube that he watches and it's just colored cars going down ramps. That's it. Over and over and over and over.”
She posted that she’s been struggling emotionally and that she feels that her mental health is deteriorating rapidly because of the situation with her son.
“He sits on that couch all damn day! When I get games out and turn the TV off, he screams,” the mom wrote, explaining that her son has learned to turn the TV back on after she turns it off even if she unplugs it from the wall. “And I'm just too exhausted to even fight him. On days I feel strong, I turn it off and allow him to slap the TV and scream for hours. It's a constant battle. He never wants to play with or interact with me, he's just a vicious zombie watching a screen.”
Parther05 said she hit a breaking point, writing that she “can’t live like this anymore.” She said, “Sometimes I just stand in my kitchen just to get away from him and cry because this is not what I envisioned having a child would be like.”
The day before she posted on Reddit, she didn’t put on the TV and instead took her son to the park. But he kept screaming, “Car-cars, car-cars, car-cars, go home, put car-cars on.”
“I’m not proud,” the mom wrote. “But I absolutely lost it. I started shouting, ‘Just stop! No! We are not going home to watch car-cars! We watch car-cars all day, every day! I can’t do it anymore! Look at this park! There are swings and slides and all you want to do is watch telly!’”
The 2-year-old was crying and the mom started crying. She apologized for yelling, the toddler asked for a hug, and then the mom asked her mom to take her son for the night. While he was staying at grandma’s, Parther05 put the TV in the attic. When he came back the next day and asked for “car-cars,” she told him that the TV was gone.
The mom said she was expected a tantrum, but he surprised her by settling in to play and read together for hours. “I almost cried. I got my boy back,” she wrote. “I understand I'm not out of the woods yet. But it's a start. Tomorrow is a new day and I feel like a large rectangular weight has been lifted and I may in time start to enjoy life again.”
The story resonated with other Reddit parents, some of them responding with stories about their own kids’ intense enchantment with certain TV programs.
Tracie A. Barnett, Ph.D., a researcher at the INRS-Institut Armand Frappier and Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center, previously told Parents.com that lots of screen time can disrupt kids' eating and sleep habits, but can hit parents hard as well.
"All of us can get hooked; it's ubiquitous—almost like an appendage now," Barnett said. "But these devices can have these adverse impacts on your engagement with your child, on their social relationships, on the time they spend outdoors, their sleep quality, their diet. The effects are far-reaching and far-ranging, so early on, these habits should be monitored."
- RELATED: Managing Your Child's Screen Time
Looking for guidance to start making screen time goals for your family (including TV, computers, tablets, video games, and phones)? The World Health Organization currently suggests babies under age 1 have no screen time, kids under age 2 stick to just video chatting with family or friends (with parent supervision) and skip the sedentary TV time entirely, and kids under age 5 get one hour a day.
But being realistic, kids are going to find their way to screens—even restaurants often have TVs playing in the background. So aim for moderation and lay off the parental guilt, say experts like Jason Kahn, Ph.D., a researcher at Boston Children's Hospital and co-founder of Mightier, bioresponsive video games that help kids develop emotional coping skills.
"Parents who are less stressed have less stressed kids," Kahn previously told Parents.com. "If you're using screen time to, say, make dinner in peace, you're helping your family by protecting your health and wellness. If screen time is carving out space for yourself and reducing your stress level, you’re doing your kid a favor."