The screen debate. How do parents feel about it?

This week, I had more than one investor tell me that parents won’t see a benefit to having an app that builds a child’s reading skills and that doesn’t put a screen in front of a child. I was told: “Parents want to put screens in front of their kids. That’s what they will pay for.”

I have been mulling this over for a few days, and now I need to put it out there for other parents to weigh in.  Because I don’t think the investors have it right. Just this past week I read this article from the NY Times citing how parents are now hiring coaches to get their children off of screens.

I think parents give their children screens mostly because they need to, not because they want to

That’s what the parents we have spoken to say, and that’s what I did. It’s out of desperation often, not a sense that the screen is the best thing for the child to do at any given point in a day. But I’d love to hear from you – the parents:

-Take this 1-question multiple-choice google poll and let me know, we’ll then publish the results to our site. 

-Then forward this to other parents

From our research, we hear parents talk about how super busy they feel. They’re trying to fit in more than is possible each day. They are working and juggling childcare and tasks around the house and all those social obligations that take so much time. They give their little children screens so their kids will be safe and occupied while they — make a phone call, check on a younger child, throw in a load of laundry, start dinner. Or they turn their child in the direction of a screen when they are just too spent themselves to do what it takes to give a child the attention he/she demands at a given moment. 

We’ve all been there

It’s a tension we deal with. “I know I should be talking or playing a game or reading a book to my 4-year old, but I don’t have it in me, and I have to do x, y and z before the other kids get home/it’s time to get dinner/the kitchen floor becomes so sticky we can no longer walk on it,” or some other thing on the never-ending mental to-do list.  When time and energy and maybe patience are low, screens play a role for parents. But when we finally get into bed at night, do we look back on the day and say, “Wow, that was so special when Tommy was watching that video/playing that game”?

I don’t think so. I think parents want those sweet, life-affirming moments with their children to define the bulk of their days. I just think it’s hard to find the space for those moments when you’re tired or feel overworked, and when parents do really want to seize the moment, it’s sometimes hard to make satisfying interactions happen. But maybe the investors are right. Maybe parents are looking for their children to have more screen time. 

Rather than wait for some institution to come out with research on this, I would love for all of you to weigh in.  If you’re willing, don’t forget:

-Take this 1-question multiple-choice google poll and let me know. 

-Then forward this to other parents

— and let’s see if we can get as many parents of young children as possible to answer the question, and figure out where people stand on this issue. Next time an investor says that to me, I want to be able to give him some data one way or another.

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