Just screens, no children

Just screens, no children

I had two kids, cofounded a startup, quit midwifery school, and accidentally had another kid in very, very short order.

So from time to time, which works out to be just about every day, I throw my kids in front of a screen so I can get some of my shit done.

I hate myself for it. Nothing makes me feel dirtier than telling my kid he can watch a 7 minute Lego speed build on Youtube  -- and that's because 7 minutes always turns into 59 minutes. My cofounder has a question about embroidery, or the terms of a convertible note. My mother needs to discuss the merits of potato salad over mashed potatoes for a holiday dinner that is still three months away. Somebody in my house dropped a marshmallow on my faux oushak rug and then peed on it, what have you. I look the other way while my little guy hits "watch again."

It could be worse. My children don't have access to tablets, smartphones, or a gaming console. But if unchecked, they will stream hours upon hours of a certain Australian series on Netflix that ponders the life of four teenaged mermaids trying to balance the demands of land and sea.

When that does happen, and I try not to let it happen (I really do) the effects are, well, exactly what the studies that compare the effects of screen time to the effects of heroin say they will be. First there is the craving, the feeling that they need Mako Mermaids more than food, water, or even life itself. Then a tolerance to Mako Mermaids develops - the more they watch the more they need to watch to get high. And after riding the waves of euphoria or a while they come crashing down. There will be an inability to focus, extreme fatigue, ennui, agitation. Between the users a fight will almost certainly break out, and in some instances, there will be bloodshed.

No, I don't object to kids having a little screen time. I was brought up on Falcon Crest and Dr. Mario, and I firmly believe I am better for it. But I grew up in the 80s and 90s -- my favorite programs didn't stream into my life on demand. I had to share my Nintendo, a TV that got 3 stations, and a rotary phone with three other people. That kind of waiting and taking turns meant that my consumption of media was somewhat measured. There was no threat of overdose. The threat now is very real.

That is why I am so proud to be a founding member of the team that is building ways for kids to connect with loved ones and friends and access digital media without ever laying eyes on a screen (even as my own kids go on the occasional bender in service of that mission). Toymail is a technology that can give your kids a way to Google, listen to music, hear stories, check their calendar, and of course voice chat with family and friends, with zero chance of them posting a selfie or subscribing to the hottest toy unboxing channel. What we are doing is kinda meta if you think about it - creating kid tech that conserves children's consumption of tech.

So you can just save that screen time for whenever you need to sweep the metaphorical marshmallows off of your rug.



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