Right when I found out I was pregnant Okay, before I was even trying to get pregnant, scheduling prenatal appointments and reading Before Your Pregnancy, I was amazed at all of the things that could harm a fetus. Coffee. Alcohol. Unpasteurized cheese. Deli meats. Fish. Cider. Bean sprouts. Litter boxes. Nail salons. Heavy lifting...the list got increasingly ridiculous as I read on. And that list of dangers was nothing compared to what could damage or kill my (at that time, still hypothetical) baby once it was born.
Mercifully for me and everyone around me, Emily Oster's Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong--and What You Really Need to Know was released when I was just a few months' pregnant. Oster, an economist at The University of Chicago who was faced with similar lists of don'ts during her first pregnancy, decided to do what economists do: study all of the existing medical literature on pregnancy risks and crunch the data. Her book is an excellent resource for those who want to better understand the actual risks of partaking in various activities (drinking a glass of wine, cleaning the litter box) so that they can make informed decisions. If you're currently pregnant or know someone who is, buy this book!
Oster, who now writes for FiveThirtyEight, has turned her attention to screen time. Like Oster, I grew up under the "one hour rule" for television. My recently-acquired library of parenting books all recommend no screen time for infants and very little for older kids. But this shift from "no television" to "no screen time," Oster argues, obscures what it is we are doing with all of the different screens in our lives. We use screens to passively watch television and movies, but we also use them to play video games, read books, and write blog posts, among other things. In her review of the medical literature on the adverse effects of screen time, Oster found that some types of screen time offered no ill effects:
This was extremely refreshing to read after years of reading about the evils of "screen time." Thinking about screens-as-paper has helped me be less guilty--and more creative--about screen time.
Typing! In the past few weeks D has discovered letters all around him, and loves to call out letters on grocery store displays, road signs, and book covers. Imagine, then, how excited he was when he realized he could make his own letters. He doesn't have the motor skills for drawing, but he can type! We have spent hours at the computer typing. He's now good enough with the alphabet that he can take dictation, so I have him type words like "Mama," or "Grover," or "Bunny." Recently he discovered that he can change the color of his typing, which led to pages and pages of multicolored text.
Messaging! D is too young to type words, but he is old enough to send emoji messages to his dad (and one of his cousins -- my apologies to his mom). There's plenty of healthy debate over "Emojigeddon," but I imagine the naysayers have never watched their two year olds sending text messages. D was having fun discovering all of the little pictures, but when he realized that he could use those little pictures to communicate with his dad, things got even more adorable ("I send you a cake!" "Dad send me a train!") Just make sure you have unlimited texting before you hand over your phone.
Drawing! For my kid who loves Color Crew (There's some screen time I could do without. I can't abide a show where crayon friends rat each other out to an eraser for coloring things "wrong." But I digress...), I downloaded Paint Kid for iPhone. This app makes it easy to download your kid's scribbles to your Camera Roll for printing and framing.
How are your little ones using screens-as-paper? Post a pic with the tag #screenpaper to share your ideas.