Screen Time Shaming and Mom Guilt: How to Break the Cycle

A square graphic image of a young boy with orange hair smiling while sitting on a gray easy chair watching a tablet and wearing headphones

I was chatting with a mom, let’s call her Screen Time Sally, at the park the other day while our little ones played. We were having a good time until she pointed out another parent and informed me, “All she does is plant her kid in front of a screen all day.”

I glanced back at the children playing happily. There was no indication that any of the amazing kiddos running around were experiencing a bad case of brain rot from too much time spent with their devices.

Giving a non-committal “Hmm,” I invented an excuse to walk away.

I couldn’t do it–sit there and listen to one more parent pass judgment on the actions of another. Honestly, this kind of behavior is just exhausting.

Becoming a parent is a taxing experience in ITSELF. What no one prepares us for, is the number of battles we will face that have nothing to do with diaper changes, spit-up, and temper tantrums.

Parenting is a continual exercise in defending our choices and feeling the need to explain every move we make, often to complete strangers.

Screen time shaming is just one example.

Bottle or breastfeeding – cloth diapering or disposable, whatever choices you make for your children, someone will have a problem with it.

However, letting kids watch a show or play on a tablet is a hotter topic than most.

Ok, I get it – we don’t need to rely on a virtual babysitter 24 hours a day. That said, I’m pretty sure our children won’t be irrevocably damaged because they watched two hours of Paw Patrol one day instead of one. I mean, I watched a ton of Nickelodeon, and I’m fine. 

So, what do you do? How do you defend yourself against the Screen Time Sallys who lurk around every corner of your local school, playground, or family event? What facts can you present to ensure your child is not on the path to becoming a screen time robot because they enjoyed Ms. Rachel as a toddler?

If you’re tired of being defensive and ready to overthrow the guilt you feel each time you hand your kiddo an iPad, you’re not alone. Screen time shaming is dumb, and we don’t have to take it.

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The “Back in My Day” Argument and Other Reasons People Don’t Want Your Kids to Have Screens

So, what’s the logic behind the accusations? Why do so many people feel the need to torment us about our choice to give our kids a screen for entertainment?

There are plenty of reasons they come up with.

The older generation, for example, likes to throw around the whole “Back in my day, we went outside and played with rocks” kind of evidence. Others want to spout statistics about how screen time diminishes brain development and causes childhood anxiety, obesity, and other potential problems.

I’m not saying these points have no value or are untrue; in fact, some of those statistics are peer-reviewed and definitely shouldn’t be ignored.

 I 100% agree that our kids need to do more than spend their afternoons playing Roblox and watching episodes of Bluey (although I will defend the value of Bluey forever!)

Sometimes, though, it feels fantastic to hand over a tablet or phone when you need to get things done. I don’t know about you, but I feel more satisfied putting on a show while I try to cook dinner, for example, instead of attempting to play and entertain while simultaneously stirring a pot of food.

Moderation is key. If your kids aren’t spending consecutive HOURS a day staring at a screen, chances are it’s not going to ruin them.

And when it comes to the whole “back in my day” conversations, let me say this:

I’m pretty sure every person who says this would have used screen time just as much as the rest of us if the option was available! 

A boy wearing a black shirt is laying on his stomach on a white couch. He is playing on a tablet.
Screen time can be educational for your child.

Mom Guilt and Screen Time Shaming

Name a day in my life, and there’s a reasonable chance I experienced mom guilt at some point on said day. My point is that there are plenty of opportunities for us to feel like terrible parents – we don’t need Screen Time Sally making us feel even worse.  

If you’re anything like me, you continually mull over every choice you make as a parent.

Did I feed my child fast food too many times last week?

Was I too harsh when I raised my voice?

Were my children heartbroken that I was too tired to play with them this afternoon?

And on and on and on…

I wholeheartedly believe that we’re our own worst enemies when it comes to parenting. For many of us, no matter how much good we do for our children, we will pick apart a single lapse in judgment or moment of weakness.

Struggling With Screen Time Guilt? Try These Suggestions!

We don’t need other people to make us feel worse about how we’re doing, and yet, there are so many opinionated folks out there ready and willing to do just that.

If there’s a day that I let my kids watch more TV than they should, I’m going to silently berate myself for it. Now, add the external remarks of the Judgmental Judys in the world, and it will compound any negativity I already feel about my choices.

Here’s the thing: we’ve got to quit letting other people’s opinions get to us so much…I know, easier said than done.

As we spiral through moments of parenting guilt, our general health will likely take a beating. Did you know, for example, that prolonged bouts of guilt can lead to physical, emotional, and mental burnout?

The question is, how do we quiet our guilty consciences?

If you’re struggling with mom guilt like me, try the following tips:

1.     Practice Self-Care

Spending time looking out for yourself is crucial to improve your physical and mental health. While I realize that many of us feel even more guilt when we do things for ourselves as parents, it’s essential to becoming the best parent you can be.

After all, how are you supposed to care for someone else if you can’t take care of yourself first?

2.     Prepare a Comeback for Screen Time Shamers

From pointing out the positives of educational YouTube videos for kids to reminding someone that it’s not their business how much your child spends on their device, have a response ready.

I’ve got a bad habit of never knowing what I want to say in “the moment.” When I have something already prepared in the back of my mind, I’m much better at standing up for myself.

3.     Surround Yourself with People Who “Get It”

Making mom friends might not be the easiest item on your to-do list, but it is essential. If you can find a group of like-minded people to talk to, you’ll feel much better about your decisions.

For example, I felt guilty about giving our daughters their tablets while I tried to finish some work the other day. I vented to a friend about how bad I felt. She sent me a photo of her kid sitting on the couch with her tablet and told me there was “no shame in my momming game.”

So, find a group of people who will cut you some slack. We’re all in this parenting thing together and know how crazy the days, hours, and minutes can be.

4.     Remember that Tomorrow is a New Day

Listen up, Mama, was today a hard day? Were you busy with work and household chores? Are you feeling touched out or dealing with a heavy mental load?

Cut your losses and hand over the tablet or remote control without guilt.

We can’t do it all every second of the day, and if we try, we’ll probably end up with a delightful case of parenting anxiety. Give yourself a chance to take a break and do what must be done to get through the moment.

Do you know why?

Because tomorrow can be different.

No matter what the naysayers may think, most of us don’t just hand over screens constantly. Chances are, a new day will look and feel much different. Instead of relying on Blippi and Little Baby Bum for entertainment, maybe you’ll take your kids to the playground or the beach.

Every day is a fresh start – don’t let what happened today convince you that you’re ruining all of your tomorrows too.

Understanding the Value of Screen Time – Yes, There Are Benefits!

Based on how loud screen time shamers tend to be, you might assume that only negativity can spring from letting your little ones use tablets and TV.

The concept of screen time benefits may feel like a pipe dream.

However, a lot of good can come from the apps and videos available for babies and kids. How, you might be asking? One word–education.

Whether you’re looking for educational videos for toddlers or the best learning apps for kids, there are abundant opportunities for growth via screens. From lessons in mathematics to videos on building confidence, your child can receive more from screen time than just a distraction from everything else in their world.

As long as you’re practicing screen time safety and paying attention to the content your child is consuming, I feel confident saying they’ll be fine watching a video or two.

Screen Time Safety, a.k.a Pay Attention to What Your Kids Are Watching

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I was the best mom in the world BEFORE I HAD KIDS.

Before becoming a mother, I had grand ideas about the type of parent I would be. Screen time had no place in that course of action. Instead of rotting their brains with the likes of Sesame Street, my kiddos would do nothing but play outside in the fresh air with their collection of BPA-free wooden blocks


The concept is lovely in theory but wasn’t sustainable. I had to get things done – work, household chores, connecting with my husband after baby, and attempting to take care of myself, at least a little. 

There was no way I could allocate my schedule to frolicking in the sunshine with my kids 24/7. 

More quickly than anticipated, I wondered if an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or two would be that terrible. 

I was hooked once I discovered how much my daughter loved that damn Hot Dog Song.

Letting your child enjoy a little screen time won’t set them up for failure. As long as they’re using their devices appropriately, that is.

Using Screen Time Appropriately

While you won’t get any shame from me about letting your kid have the tablet, tablet, or screen time usage can’t be a total free for all.

Recently, I walked into my daughter’s room and found her watching a video that seemed much too mature. My husband and I thought we’d set up all the proper parental controls, but somehow this video slipped through the cracks. 

We quickly blocked the channel and reexamined her access on the tablet, but it helped me remember how important it is to pay attention. 

Don’t just let your kids go ham on their devices; there are plenty of videos you don’t want them to see. Have conversations about what they’re watching and keep an eye on the content they’re interacting with

Paying attention to screen time guidelines by organizations like the Mayo Clinic is also beneficial. They’ll help you determine the healthiest way to let your little ones enjoy tablets, phones, and TV.

Just remember, though, if your child gets more screen time than what’s recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics sometimes, it’s NOT THE END OF THE WORLD. We’re all doing our best; some days will be better than others. 

A girl with a white and blue shirt is sitting on the end of a bed looking down at a tablet.
Mom guilt about screen time is real, and it sucks. It’s time to break the cycle on screen time shaming!

Please Don’t Measure Yourself Against People Who Practice Screen Time Shaming

Whether it’s your mom, a teacher, or a friend, there will always be someone with an opinion about how much screen time your child is getting.

What’s important is knowing when to stop listening. Only you can say what’s best for your family. 

And, if you want the hard truth of the matter, all of those people coming down on you for your decisions probably feel bad about some choice they’re making themselves and are trying to bring you down with them. 

No matter how hard someone tries to convince you otherwise, none of us are perfect. Maybe someone gives their kid less screen time than you, but who knows! They could be feeding their kid McDonald’s every meal. 

Parenting is hard; we’re all out here trying our best to endure this messy and beautiful season of our lives.

So, cut yourself some slack against the screen time shaming, Mama. 

If it’s been a hard day, pour yourself that glass of wine, turn on an episode of Gabby’s Dollhouse, and indulge in a little uninterrupted quiet time. Then, go back into the rockstar parent we all know you are. 

 How Do You Respond to Screen Time Shaming? We’d Love to Hear From You!