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How I Learned To Stop Judging Other Parent’s Screen Time Policies (Even If They’re Wrong)

The following was syndicated from MyTorch for The Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line at [email protected].

You give up a lot of things when you become a parent. Spontaneous evenings out give way to date nights plotted like bank heists. But in addition to all the inconveniences and incredible joys, you also get a shiny new hobby: judging other parents.

Do you use cloth diapers? Do you ban pacifiers? Does your newborn sleep face down, face up, or suspended by their ankles like a chubby wingless bat? Whatever you do, it’s a ton of fun to gawk at other parents who do things differently.

It’s also poisonous, and can disrupt or even destroy friendships. And guys, we need pals who are parents. Playdates save lives.

So here’s what to do when a parent pal does screen time differently. Spoiler: it does not involve passive-aggressive tweets, Brent. Everyone knows who you’re talking about.

When They’re Too Strict
Too strict, of course, means stricter than you. Maybe they allow 90 seconds of screen time per day, and that screen time consists only of black-and-white educational content, always with the sound muted because eardrums don’t grow on trees.

don draper from mad men
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That’s fine. Dictators gonna dictate. When your kid goes to visit, ask them to respect the house rules and come home thankful they were born into a family that believes in personal freedoms.

When that poor, oppressed child visits your home, be sensitive to the other parents’ wishes.

But when that poor, oppressed child visits your home, be sensitive to the other parents’ wishes. Let the kids enjoy their 90 seconds, and then send them out into the sunshine. It won’t kill your kid to go with less than their daily ration of screen time, just this once. It’s a great opportunity to show them real hospitality and selflessness.

“So far, so good,” said the lemming, halfway down.

When They’re Too Relaxed
Too relaxed, of course, means more relaxed than you. Maybe they let their kids watch whatever junk they choose. Maybe they let their kids play video games so long that their eyes prune. Maybe they let their kids use headphones with 1989 thumping so loud their ear canals collapse.

No big deal. Take a deep breath. Restrain yourself from sending your friend links to all the research that proves once and for all they don’t really love their children. With a bit of perspective and mutual respect, it shouldn’t be too hard to let your friends parent their own way.

Until it’s time for your kid to visit their house, that is. Obviously then you should impose your authority, demanding your friend alter their home environment to suit your kid’s habits, right?

If you want to make sure your playdate invitations dry up forever, go for it. If you believe the digital practices in that other home really are destructive, just don’t let your kid go there. But sooner or later your kid is going to walk into situations that don’t line up with the systems you’ve set up at home.

Restrain yourself from sending your friend links to all the research that proves once and for all they don’t really love their children.

When your rules don’t apply, they’re going to have to recall the principles your rules were always meant to communicate. There’s no better place to learn this than at a trusted friend’s home.

Talk
Before they visit a friend, encourage your kid to use good judgment with their screen time. Just for a laugh. Then, so long as your friend has at least basic parental controls set up, let your kid enjoy a little extra digital freedom.

If they make it home alive, talk to them about what liberties they took. If they played a new game or browsed YouTube longer than normal, ask them how they liked it, if it made them feel good or bad, energized or tired, smart or dumb. It may lead to a small rebellion against your house rules, but it’s still good training for the day they fly the coop.

Besides that, arguing is way better than finding passive-aggressive tweets about you.

Brian Beise is a writer and brand developer at mytorch.com.