It Won’t Be Cute When She’s 13


As we walked into the restaurant, I glanced down at a baby in a car seat – and took a second look.  There she was, iPad in both hands, watching a preschool video and tapping on the cutesy characters in it.  She couldn’t have been more than 8 or 9 months old, but her parents had given it to her to keep her entertained as they waited for a table.

I could see the future: 12 years from now they’ll enter the same restaurant, and she’ll have her head bent over her phone.  As he walks through the door, her dad will look over his shoulder and snarl, “You’re always on that thing!  Can’t you put it away for once?”  And she’ll shrug and continue what she’s doing.

The Academy of Pediatrics ( recommends zero screen time for children under two years old, but that’s not the main point.  What bothers me is that this baby’s parents are starting her obsession with electronics so early  The good news is that it’s never too late to make changes.  If you see more of the top of your teen’s head than his or her face, you have every right to set some limits, such as “No phones at the table” or “No phones while we watch this movie together.”  It’s a form of courtesy, which isn’t shown nearly enough in modern society.

Just be sure to practice what you preach!


  1. I was talking to my son about his “list” for yesterday when he started pushing buttons on his phone. I told him that was impolite to do that while I was talking to him. He said, mom, I am writing down my list so I don’t forget anything. Ha! But you are so right about guide lines. Thanks!

  2. I wish I could agree with you but too often my children are on my phone or my husbands phone or when he is home they are on the iPad. They either play games or colour, but when we are doing something that I know is going to take a little bit to long for their attention span to handle before a meltdown or temper tantrum starts you can bet that I am going to give them a distraction to keep them occupied while they wait with us. Some may think it’s the cheap way out but really it’s to keep everyone happy. Would you rather sit in a restaurant and see a child play on an electronic device quietly or would you rather them be loud and rowdy and possibly screaming because they don’t quite have the capacity to understand why they have to be quite and wait. On our phones and iPad there are games that teach our children matching and colours and the alphabet as well. There are even games with puzzles that my almost 3 year old is getting really good at.
    I do agree that there are times that electronics need to be put down and family time or actual interaction needs to be had but in some situations it’s better to let them play on a phone or iPad instead of risking a chance of a temper tantrum.

    • You make a good point about children being quiet in a restaurant, but – and you probably saw this coming – we had no electronics to entertain our children when they were small. Instead, we packed small toys and books to entertain them, and we practiced good table manners at home. If the wait was long, we walked around as much as we could either inside or outside the restaurant because we knew they’d have to sit still while eating.

      I caution you against handing over electronics to ward off temper tantrums, though. I had an 8th grade parent a few years ago who wouldn’t take away her daughter’s phone as a consequence because, “She’ll get way too mad!” Beware of letting a child of any age manipulate you with the threat of a tantrum.

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