• I once found I’d slept for almost two hours while Rory happily kept himself occupied with his screen. (Gett Images)Source: Gett Images
The hardest part was taking the iPad away from Rory. He screamed and begged for it every night.
By
Pippa Smith*

19 Apr 2021 - 8:49 AM  UPDATED 11 Nov 2021 - 2:31 PM

It all started when I was pregnant for the second time. Rory* was two-and-a-half, and had dropped his nap, meanwhile I was exhausted. I had bad morning sickness that went well into my second trimester and all I wanted to do was get a bit of a rest.

I tried so hard to get Rory to nap, often bringing him in to bed with me so I could nap while he rested but he struggled against it and I would get frustrated. I began putting him in his room with some books and building blocks to keep him occupied but after 10 minutes or so he would come into my room asking me for something. So that’s when I began giving him the iPad.

It’s not like we were a screen-free family. Rory often watched ABC Kids and little shows on his iPad but it wasn’t for long periods of time. When I began giving him his iPad while I napped things became easier for me. I once found I’d slept for almost two hours while Rory happily kept himself occupied with his screen.

I once found I’d slept for almost two hours while Rory happily kept himself occupied with his screen.

It became easy to give him the iPad when I had to go to doctor’s appointments or when I was trying to get dinner ready. My husband has a busy job and we don’t have family around so aside from the two days Rory had at daycare, it was just me and him. That is a lot of hours to fill in a day with a toddler. The iPad became my helper of sorts.

After my daughter Lina was born, I began using the iPad for Rory more than I realised. I justified to myself that it wasn’t doing him any harm. I put on a lot of educational apps on the iPad and I made sure the shows he watched on YouTube for Kids were helping him learn.

I never thought that because my three-year-old was spending a few hours a day on the device it was leading to any harm. Plus I couldn’t see any changes in Rory. He adapted to being a big brother really well and was kind and gentle towards his younger sister.

Rory had significant speech delays and they recommended that we take him to see a speech therapist. 

It was only after Rory turned four that I realised the impact the iPad may have had on his development. The daycare that he went to had a speech pathologist come in and I agreed to have Rory tested. Yes he didn’t talk as much as some of the other kids his age and he mispronounced a few words but I didn’t think it was much of a problem. If anything I believed he would grow out of it.

The results from the speech pathologist were alarming. The report we got back suggested that Rory had significant speech delays and they recommended that we take him to see a speech therapist. I went to my GP and he told us about speech therapists who were covered by Medicare – however they had very long waiting lists – some of them six months long.

When I looked into private therapists I was shocked at their fees. We had no option but to put ourselves on the bulk-billed therapist waiting list. 

In the first session I told the therapist how it was my fault. 

Meanwhile I did a bit of research. There was a study relating to 18 month children that found every additional 30 minutes of screen time was linked to a 49 per cent increased risk in speech delayResearch recommended children under the age of two have no screen time, while children over two limit their screen time to one hour a day. I honestly don’t know how that was possible in this day and age where we have screens everywhere. 

My husband and I eventually made the decision to have Rory see a speech therapist privately. It was expensive but it was worth it for our son’s development. In the first session I told the therapist how it was my fault. I shouldn’t have allowed my son access to so much screen time in the first place, but she was very kind and understanding. She said there was no way to tell if Rory’s speech delay was because of the iPad or something else altogether. While she told me not to blame myself, I did.

I never thought because my three-year old was spending a few hours a day on the iPad that it could potentially lead to any harm.

The hardest part was taking the iPad away from Rory. He screamed and begged for it every night. His distress was causing Lina to be upset. I often felt like joining the children as they cried. It was all a bit too much. In the end I began giving Rory the iPad but for brief periods of time. I gave him 15 minutes of screens at a time and set up an alarm that went off when his time was up. That seemed to help.

Rory has been doing really well with his speech therapy. While he’s not at the same level as children his age he has made good progress. When he turned five, we decided to hold him back from starting school so he can have a bit more time to catch up with his peers. Instead of school, I’ve increased his days at daycare.

I’m trying my best to limit screen time for both my children, though there are days of course where I have to be realistic and give in to screens. I’m guessing most parents these days do the same, because at the end of the day we have to look after ourselves as well as them.

*Names have been changed 

 

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