The following photo is one I took in the last week. Before my daughter turned four months old.
You will have one of two thoughts when you see it.
You will either think I'm a parenting genius.
Or you will think I'm ruining my daughter with screen time, destroying her social skills, negatively impacting her sleep, increasing her chance of depression, most likely giving her ADHD and a lack of appreciation for books made from paper.
If you had the first thought... thanks. You probably have a baby, toddler or small child. You probably have been in a similar situation to the one I was. My baby was awake, I needed to get ready to go out. So I popped her in her newborn high chair and switched on the Disney Movie channel. Thirty minutes of blissful silence from my extremely content baby (except for the few giggles and baby gurgles as she enjoyed the bright colours flashing on the screen).
If you are the latter thought, then you might die when I tell you what other horrors I expose my daughter to.
Just before she turned three months old, my daughter had an epic melt down. Nothing was wrong. I tried my 22 million things to settle her and nothing worked. As I reached desperation, I remembered parents talking about how their children loved one thing above all else. I wondered... would a baby love it too?
I grabbed my phone. Searched Let it go Frozen YouTube. I hit play. Silence. A smile. My baby was amazed. My baby was happy. By the end of the song she was cooing along.
Disney video clips are my new favourite thing. They amuse her when she's awake and in a good mood. They settle her when she's cranky. They keep her entertained for two and a half minutes while I get her feed ready.
That's not all she loves about my phone. We face time Dad when he's travelling so she can see him. I reverse the camera and treat it like a mirror for her to play with. I record her cooing at her "reflection" and she loves to watch the video of herself after (she's born in the age of the selfie after all).
She loves watching TV. She watches the news for three of her five feeds during the day (it makes me feel slightly better than her watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians).
I have no problem with my baby enjoying screen time. Technology will be part of her future.
But sometimes I worry. I worry that I am somehow failing her by exposing her to technology. I worry because of experts who tell parents like me that we are messing up our children. Destroying their future.
On the Daily Mail Sue Palmer, psychologist and author of Toxic Childhood, says that she predicted how our little ones would "become slaves to screens".
"Because technology moves so fast, and children have embraced it so quickly, it's been difficult for parents to control it. And when it comes to spending a childhood in front of a screen, this generation are like lab rats. The long-term impact is not known."
"[Research shows] links between excessive screen-time and obesity, sleep disorders, aggression, poor social skills, depression and academic under-achievement. It's little wonder, then, that the boom in iPads and smartphones has coincided with further deterioration in the physical and mental health of children of all ages. Sadly, we're seeing the rise of the 'techno-tot' for whom iPads have become the modern-day equivalent of a comfort blanket."
Now, I'm not a research expert, but as Palmer says, we won't really know the impacts of screen-time until much later. However... her words, and other experts with the same opinion sound a little scare mongering to me.
The list of possible consequences to my daughter watching Let it Go sound extreme. After all, my daughter will most likely learn to type before she learns to write. I don't have a problem with this. It's the future.
When I was in primary school, I was forced to spend hours perfecting my running writing. An essential skill. According to experts and teachers at the time, the quality of my running writing determined the success of my future. Little did they know that I would toss it aside as soon as possible and learn to type. Little did they know that I can type better than I can write. Little did they know that my career success has been determined by my ability to type... not write letters that join together in perfect harmony.
My daughter's world will be very different to the one I grew up in. The way she will learn, read and interact with her peers will be done through a technology that wasn't available when I was a baby or in school.
Instead of fearing technology, I choose to embrace it. I choose to expose my daughter to it from as early as possible, so that when she grows up and is surrounded by it, it isn't unfamiliar. I want her to embrace the possibilities the future has, not fear them.
So, to the experts, stop telling us parents we are doing the wrong thing. We have enough to worry about.
What can your baby/toddler/child do on your phone?
If you need three and a half minutes of a happy baby... here you go. You're welcome. Don't feel guilty, your baby will be fine...