The iPad is the new pacifier.
When toddlers get fussy, many New York moms and dads are passing them their mobile devices to stop tantrums in their tracks.
“I swore I would never be that mother. I would see parents in restaurants handing kids iPads, and look at them with disgust,” says Lisette Sand-Freedman, owner of Shadow PR.
But two years and two kids later, she’s one of many New York City moms who realize that staying unplugged is much harder IRL (in real life.)
“The iPad and iPhone are my lifesavers,” she says. “We try not to overuse and abuse, but should I need my 2-year-old to stop running around the hair salon or stop poking his little sister, ‘Frozen’ or ‘Daniel Tiger’ are the only cures.”
Dheeman Chatterji, a 32-year-old father from Jersey City, admits that he and his wife often give their 18-month-old daughter one of their iPhones.
“We try not to, but when she’s incredibly fussy, it’s become the default go-to nowadays,” he says.
The iPad and iPhone are my lifesavers.
His little one either watches “Sesame Street” or scrolls through photo albums to find videos of herself with her parents and her grandmother.
“Right now, it’s convenient for us to give her something so that she is essentially out of our hair while we’re driving or trying to work,” he says. “I’m concerned, but we don’t have good guidelines on how much screen time is too much, because technology is changing so fast. We’re just playing it by ear.”
They’re not alone. Most parents are giving kids gadgets to put them to sleep or to keep them busy while mom or dad is doing housework, according to research published in the journal “Pediatrics” this week.
Everyone’s worried about keeping tabs on tablets, but no one can agree on how much screen time is too much.
Even the American Academy of Pediatrics relaxed their rules in September, after years of completely discouraging screen time for children under 2 and limiting it to two hours a day for older kids.
The new guidelines highlight the quality of tablet and smartphone time that is closely monitored by parents over setting harsh restrictions on how long kids are logged on.
“In a world where ‘screen time’ is becoming simply ‘time,’ our policies must evolve or become obsolete,” they wrote, revealing that more than 30% of American kids play with mobile devices while they are still diapers.
That’s a conservative number compared to the new survey of Philadelphia preschoolers in “Pediatrics,” which reported that more than 96% of the tots studied were using mobile devices.
Peter Shankman, a 43-year-old dad from Hells Kitchen, has his pediatrician’s permission to let his 2 1/2-year-old daughter Jessa watch “Peppa the Pig” on the iPad for 30 minutes a day, or to FaceTime him while he’s away on business.
“She said, ‘I assumed your parents put you in front of the TV for ‘Sesame Street’ for hours and hours when you were growing up, and you turned out OK,’” says Shankman, who puts parental locks on the devices in the house so that Jessa only watches kid-friendly Netflix and YouTube channels.
“We’re diligent about how much screen time she has. I want her to experience the world and go outside,” he adds. “But I know that I’m addicted to my phone, and it’s not realistic to never let her see a screen.”
Dr. Jodi Gold, an upper East Side child psychiatrist and author of “Screen Smart Parenting: How to Find Balance and Benefit in your Child’s Use of Social Media, Apps and Digital Devices,” recommends that parents help kids take advantage of technology to make them smarter. A child who dreams of being a designer can watch how-to videos on YouTube, or an aspiring director can make their own film on iMovie.
Just don’t let the device become a mindless toy.
“Using it for school work, using it to learn how to read or write a blog post is good,” says Dr. Gold, who will be speaking at the free Diva Moms Book Club meeting on Nov. 11 at 400 E. 54th St.
“But it becomes negative when they’re playing Minecraft 24/7, or using it in lieu of conversations with real people,” she explains. “And I would be careful with it at night, as it can be too stimulating before bed.”
Valley Stream mom Sandra Hutchinson, a retired NYPD officer and current P.T.A. president, found her 9 and 13-year-old sons’ grades were slipping from playing too much Minecraft and other video games.
“If they want to download a book and read, great!” says Hutchinson. “But my rule for them now is they can play on the screens on Friday and Saturday, but on Sundays everything shuts down: No more tablets, no more video games, because it takes too much time away from family.”
Her friend and co-president of the Queens Mocha Moms, Karen Taylor Bass, 48, has set similar restrictions for her 8 and 16-year-olds: screen time is only allowed on Friday and Saturday, and then before 2 p.m. on Sunday. Their phones and the family tablet must be turned over and plugged in when they come home from school, although they can hop on the computer to complete homework assignments.
“My son’s grades saw a 10-point drop before I took the phone away. He wasn’t multitasking as well as he thought he was. Now those grades are coming back up,” she says.
And it’s important to get her 8-year-old outside. “We were on a playdate with some kids, and they didn’t know what double dutch was!” marvels Bass. “How have you never heard of double dutch as a kid, and you’re living in New York? I’m not raising robots.”