Pretty much every parent I know wants their child to have less screen time, but is also super busy and just doesn’t have the strength, patience or brain capacity to resist Peppa Pig, time and time again.
Sometimes – like when you’re cooking dinner or have to get shit done around the house – the screens end up coming out. Whether it’s Ms Rachel, Blippi or Hey Duggee, there’s a wealth of educational entertainment options out there waiting for your child to visually devour.
Of course, we all know that screens aren’t always great news for our kids – most parents are all too aware of the headlines and recommendations from organisations like Unicef and the World Health Organisation which warns against excessive screen time, and recommend babies under two don’t have any at all.
But the reality for many parents today is that their kids are going to watch Peppa Pig every now and then – and that’s OK.
Some parents, however, are keen to try and get their kids’ screen time down to the bare minimum – and Azka Shafiq (heyazky) is one of them.
She decided to completely cut her 18-month-old’s screen time and shared a TikTok video of how she managed it after six months.
It’s been viewed more than 770,000 times – so it’s safe to say lots of parents wanted to know how on earth she managed it.
“I thought we couldn’t do it, but we did it! And it gets easier everyday!” wrote Shafiq in the caption.
In the video itself, the parent said that “motherhood can be so much less exhausting when your child can play independently”.
Her 18-month-old hasn’t watched TV or done anything screen-related in six months – and she says there are some key things that helped a lot with increasing her independent play.
The first is a daily toy rotation. Lots of us are guilty of having stacks of toys here, there and everywhere. Shafiq sorted them all away into boxes and said she gives her child one box to play with each day. So, her daughter has access to about 10% of her toys.
“I have found that this is less overwhelming for her and has allowed her to be more creative,” said the mum, adding she also has access to her play kitchen everyday, as well as a few books (which she rotates every week).
Other parents shared their zero screen time wins. One wrote in the comments: “I have made it four years without screens unless we’re sick or broken. It’s the best! My girls play all day. The longer I go, the longer I want to go.”
Some shared how they’d managed to compromise and had cut screen time to one hour a week, or one Disney movie on a Friday night.
Of course, there were also parents who wanted to remind others that letting their kids watch a bit of TV now and then doesn’t make them bad.
“Remember moms, you aren’t bad moms for allowing limited screen time, especially for older kids. Or if you have multiple children and are a SAHM,” wrote one user.
Another simply said: “Please update when you have three young kids.”
Understandably, there were also plenty of questions from parents who were keen to try it themselves. When one mum asked how she’d organised the toy bins, Shafiq replied: “It’s all a mix! Some soft toys, some gross motor skills, some open-ended items, some books, etc!”
In a separate FAQ video, the mum explained how they manage to watch TV while their toddler is awake, to which she replied: “We don’t.”
Describing some of the positive changes she’s noticed in her daughter since ditching screen time, she explained her toddler is now playing better, sleeping better and her baseline for stimulation is low.
She added: “I am not shaming anyone. I am simply sharing what works for us.”
And if you are one of those parents – like me – who still has to rely on screen time. Never fear. Parenting expert Emily Oster has crunched the numbers time and time again, written multiple books about parenting, and her approach to screen time is simple.
“My kids watch TV every night,” she previously told The Guardian in 2021. “Everybody needs downtime.”