What your screen time limits say about your horrible parenting

This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 4-year-old daughter Viva, who is probably in the yard wishing she was looking at an iPad right now.

If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that everyone hates parents, and all parents hate each other. Dads are especially victimized, surpassed only by moms, who are uniquely despised. Everything you do, every choice you make as a parent is judged and weighed and scoffed at by both non-parents and parents, who, when not throwing shade or casting side-eyes at you in public, are interrupting your time with your child to tell you exactly how awful you are. And there’s no greater measure of how awful a parent you are than how much you let your kids stare at screens. How do we know this? Bloggers tell us.

Alexandra Samuel at JSTOR daily recently created a doozy of a think piece (just in time for Mother’s Day) about how everyone is judging screen time amounts because they hate moms and women and the poor and want to keep them in the home playing Yahtzee with the kids instead of buying lattes and getting jobs and actualizing themselves. Her persecution (via mean looks received) when giving her child a bottle has been surpassed only by her persecution (via even meaner looks received) when handing over an iPad. Elissa Strauss at Slate wrote a piece last week agreeing with the JSTOR piece, because she evidently couldn’t think of a good topic for her own blog, and I was indoor rock climbing and hiking with my kid all weekend (not watching TV like you crass plebs) and couldn’t come up with a topic for MY blog, so I’m commenting on the trend of judgy blogs backlashing against screen time limits combating judgy blogs suggesting screen time limits. (Next week expect a piece from me about hiking.)

You may now be shouting, “Slow your satirical roll, Crappy Jonathan Swift. You’re a male–and the worst and most démodé style of male: the straight, white kind–so you don’t understand victimization, and you should take your highball glass brimming with privilege and go back to Sterling Cooper.” Ah, but what you don’t realize is that, while I’m certainly not as victimized as a mom and not quite as victimized as a stay-at-home dad, I am an adjunct professor, which means I have a costly terminal degree that warrants me sub-minimum wage pay, no benefits, no office space and an institutionally mandated kick in the soft bits on the hour. They don’t even make a Lego of me like they do stay-at-home dads. What I’m saying is, I, too, am a perpetually victimized blogger (If I get shamed enough they might let me on The Huffington Post), and wish people would stop judging me based on how much I let my kid watch TV and YouTube and play video poker with me in a tavern at one in the afternoon.

I’ve handily broken all parents down into three categories. There are no other categories, so don’t bother looking for any. I am going to list what other people think of you based on which category you fall into. Choose one, then meditate on your poor choices, or write a think piece on your blog about how you are unapologetic about your choices and how tired you are of the condescension by people who don’t know your struggle.

The Snooty Ascetic

Maybe you’re a dirty hippie with a dream catcher tattoo and a kid named “Clover” or maybe you’re a former Lincoln Park Trixie or Chad with a bedroom full Pottery Barn Kids items that say “Chloe” on them. Either way, your kid once saw two minutes of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and you sent them for an MRI to make sure their brain didn’t melt. No one on the playground actually agrees with your strict screen time limits, they just heard you sneer, “We don’t even OWN a TV” and they dropped the number of hours they were going to admit their kid watches TV from four hours to 15 minutes. And even though one kid just ran past whistling the “Game of Thrones” theme, his dad said he’s only allowed to watch “Super Why” on PBS kids. We’re pretending to agree with you now, but when we get to the car we’re turning up the volume on the portable DVD player so our own child won’t hear us call you out for the sanctimonious prig that you are. Plus, when your kid gets to Kindergarten and doesn’t know who Tony Stark is, the other kids are going to leave no part of him intact but his glasses, which they will use for kindling a fire they can stand around while watching Avengers Assemble on their Samsungs.

The Smug Moderate

Well, aren’t you something with your knee-jerk equanimity! “I don’t want to be too strict about screen time but it’s important to have limits.” Wow. It’s like Lao Tzu re-manifested from primordial celestial energy right next to these baby swings to teach me about the immortal Tao. Your answer is a cop out and you just want to be liked by everyone! Well, we can see right through it. Nobody likes a panderer! We don’t like Maroon 5 and we don’t like Hillary Clinton and we don’t like you! Are you pro-screen time or anti-screen time and what is your actual threshold in minutes?! We want numbers and we want them now or you can just take your kid and your la-dee-dah relativism and take them home to maybe watch TV or maybe ride a bike into the lake.

The Smarmy Libertarian

Your kid watches more than two hours of screens a day. You are a monster. That may have been fine during your childhood in the ‘70s and ‘80s, but so was smoking, Steak-Umm, water guns that looked like realistic Mac-10s, riding your bike behind the mosquito fogger truck, Ferrara Pan “Cherry Chan” candy and Jan Michael Vincent. That stuff doesn’t fly now. I know, you’re all, “Forget these trendy parents and their screen time limits. I watched TWENTY SIX hours of television a day and I turned out fine.” No, you didn’t. You turned into a broken shell of a person who remembers the name of the creepy guy in the bicycle shop on Diff’rent Strokes but who cannot love. (His name was Mister Horton, and he was played by Gordon Jump.) You could have been an astronaut or something, but instead you’re an angry general manager on daily beta blockers determined to stunt your child like your old man stunted you when he left you in front of a 10 inch Zenith to watch Son of Svengoolie all afternoon while he went in the garage to spin King Crimson records and came back smelling like burnt oregano. You’re not so much a “digital immigrant” as an “analogue refugee” who needs to get with the program–a program which involves not watching any programs.

There you have it. The mob is judging how much screen time you allow your kid, and they’re doing it to keep you down. Now go and take that tablet out of your kid’s hands. Or put one in them. Or put one in them for a reasonable amount of time and then take it out. Any way you slice it, everyone is staring at you.

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