Kindergarten Teacher Goes Viral For Joyous Zoom Trip To The Zoo

Kindergarten teacher Garrett Talcott goes viral for taking his class on a remote field trip to the zoo

For many kids across the country, they’ve just passed the one-year mark of going to school…at home. Though kids in many states are back in classrooms, so many are still at home and teachers have had to reinvent everything about learning this year. Case in point: The adorable Kindergarten teacher in Seattle, Washington who “took” his class along with him to the zoo and it turned out to be a huge hit with his kids.

Garrett Talcott teaches kindergarten at Ella Baker Elementary in Redmond, Washington, and since he’s been teaching remotely all year, he thought, why not take my students along with me on a virtual Zoo trip? When Talcott got to the zoo and his partner Michael Rivera-Dirks saw how animated and how enthusiastic Talcott — and the students — were to see the zoo, he knew he had to post the videos online.

@vividmichael

Field trip with the class to the zoo! #woodlandparkzoo #zoo #penguin #zookeeper #antarctic #arctic #seattle #fieldtrip #onlineclass #remoteteaching

♬ original sound – Mr. Talcott

Not only does Talcott seem like a fantastic teacher, the best part is how joyful these little kids are to see a zoo, even through a computer screen.

These Kindergartners have probably never been on a regular field trip, so when Talcott holds his laptop up to the rhino cage so they could watch over Zoom, these delightful little kids screamed “Best trip ever!” “We can still see the animals!” and “That was awesome.” So pure, so much joy.

https://www.tiktok.com/@vividmichael/video/6942129720570023173?referer_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.today.com%2F&referer_video_id=6941569610378513670&refer=embed&is_copy_url=1&is_from_webapp=v2

“I was excited to take them all there,” Talcott told Today. “There is a lot we can learn from the zoo. Our school is brand new, we’re in our third year, and we don’t currently do a field trip to the zoo. Myself, living ten minutes away from the zoo, and teaching remotely, I wanted to use those resources.”

Talcott’s partner actually started filming Talcott’s school lessons and uploading them online back in September 2020 because he couldn’t get over how joyful and ebullient the lessons were, with Rivera-Dirks saying that Talcott and his student’s positivity were so infections he had to share it with more people.

@vividmichael

♬ original sound – Mr. Talcott

“You hear these kids, (and) they’re not seeing a dark time. They’re kids,” Rivera-Dirks also told Today. “Knowing they are our future — it’s gonna be OK. I knew I had to put it out to the world.”

@vividmichael

♬ original sound – Mr. Talcott

Mr. Talcott’s enthusiasm looks exhausting, proving this man truly has a gift.

“We’re all going through different feelings and emotions so when I get on there, whether I’ve had enough sleep or I’m ready or not ready, BOOM! The moment I hit that live button I have to be ready and there for those students and make sure it’s the best day of their life,” Talcott told local news station King 5.

BRB gonna watch some of Mr. Talcott’s lessons and let the joy wash over me.

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A Scary Number Of Cars Are Stolen With Kids Inside

Many car thefts happen with kids still in the car

At some point or another, many parents have either thought about leaving their kids in the car while they run in to pay for gas or pick up a last-minute grocery item or done so, never thinking their car could be stolen in an instant. According to one organization, this horrifying situation happens more than you would think.

“Families are being traumatized and expensive AMBER Alerts are being issued as a result of these easily preventable incidents,” Amber Rollins of KidsAndCars.org tells Scary Mommy via press release. The company documented 17 children (and four cases involving dogs) last month alone who were taken in a stolen vehicle. One case resulted in the tragic death of a teen who was dragged to death trying to escape from the backseat of her family’s SUV while her family went inside to grab food.

Kidsandcars.org

In 2019, they documented over 200 U.S. children taken in stolen vehicles. While the number seems low, it only takes imagining the horrific incident as a parent to make leaving your child for 30 seconds feel unimaginable. “Although the victims of these types of incidents typically survive, it is incredibly distressing for everyone involved. Because this is easily preventable, we can avoid the unnecessary trauma and use of precious law enforcement resources by simply never leaving children alone in vehicles.” Janette Fennell, president and founder of KidsAndCars.org, said.

Police are also concerned because, in some cases like one that happened in Minneapolis in February, the stolen car gets abandoned once the thief realizes a child is inside. Depending on where you live (and in this instance) it can put the child in extreme danger because of outside temperatures.

“It could be tucked and hidden. The child could be sitting in the car and we are in subzero temperatures,” police spokesperson John Elder told Fox9 News. In the end, that is exactly what happened. Luckily, it wasn’t long after the car was reported stolen and the boy was found safe.

It can seem harmless to leave a sleeping baby in their car seat for a quick errand rather than waking them up or letting an older kid stay in the car while you run into a store, but it’s just not worth it.

The organization recommends that if you see a child alone in a vehicle, “get involved.” This means calling 911 if you see a child in distress and acting quickly. Now, more than ever, there are drive-thru or curbside services available that don’t require you to leave your vehicle, so use them. Finally, make sure all your car doors are locked every time you step away from your vehicle or if you’re sitting inside a parked car.

The bottom line? It’s better to be safe than sorry.

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UNICEF Display Is Reminder That 168M Kids Have Not Been In School In A Year

UNICEF stages a striking installation in New York to remind everyone of the empty classrooms around the world

For many students across the U.S. and around the world, we are reaching the one-year anniversary of remote learning. As families globally consider the consequences of another school year spent at-home, UNICEF has called on governments everywhere to do everything in their power to prioritize kids getting back to safe, in-classroom learning. To do this, UNICEF erected a “pandemic classroom” installation outside the United Nations in New York showing 168 empty desks and backpacks to represent the 168 million children worldwide for whom schools have been completely closed since last March.

TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty

“168 empty desks. 168 unused backpacks. 168 million futures hanging in the balance,” UNICEF writes on social media. “This pandemic classroom installation at the United Nations in New York is a powerful reminder of the global education crisis. The desks and backpacks represent the 168 million children whose schools have been completely closed for nearly a year due to COVID-19. Our message to world leaders is clear: no effort should be spared to reopen schools.”

 

UNICEF’s message is clear and it’s that governments worldwide need to do better in prioritizing the reopening of schools and to prioritize reopening them better than they were before.

“We cannot afford to move into year two of limited or even no in-school learning for these children. No effort should be spared to keep schools open, or prioritize them in reopening plans,” Henrietta Fore UNICEF Executive Director said in a statement.

UNICEF provides the following guidelines on how best to reopen schools, but over here in the U.S. where each state makes their own rules, it can feels hopeless and futile. Since the start of the pandemic, many have criticized states like New York for offering indoor dining but keeping schools closed. Others lamented when the CDC director said schools could reopen without vaccinating teachers first. Also, the New York Times just pointed out that only 4% of school-age children even live in an area that meets the CDC’s thresholds to safely reopen schools for full in-person learning. The only good news is that vaccine administration is ramping up and COVID-19 cases are falling, and although President Biden has said he wants kids back in schools, we’re still waiting to see how the U.S. will actually prioritize the safe reopening of all schools.

TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty

“As we approach the one-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are again reminded of the catastrophic education emergency worldwide lockdowns have created. With every day that goes by, children unable to access in-person schooling fall further and further behind, with the most marginalized paying the heaviest price,” Fore continued.

In March 2020, nobody ever thought we’d still be in the same situation, but here we are, so what are our leaders going to do about it?

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Easter Bunny Race Car Treats with Peeps!

Easy no bake Easter Peeps Desserts made with Peeps marshmallows and Twinkies! A fun food recipe idea that you can do in minutes with Peeps. Easter Bunny Twinkie Race Cars are a fun food craft for kids! Love easy peasy Easter desserts? Then you’ll also like these Bunny Cheesecake Strawberries, Cute Chicken Cupcakes,  Easter Milkshakes […]

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Only 4% Of U.S. Kids Live In Counties Where Schools Should Be Fully Open

A New York Times analysis of the CDC’s guidelines for reopening elementary schools posits that very few U.S. counties even meet the CDC’s thresholds for in-person learning

In the last few weeks, the CDC, along with many states that previously barred in-person classroom learning, have been making a concerted effort to get kids back in classrooms, however, by the CDC’s own guidelines, only 4% of our nation’s kids live in areas that actually meet their thresholds to safely reopen schools, leaving everyone to utter a big “huh?”

Despite Biden’s push to reopen schools and the CDC’s own recommendations that seemingly encourage school reopenings, The New York Times reports that, according to the CDC’s own guidelines on what COVID-19 metrics a county needs to hit before they can be safely encouraged to fully reopen classrooms, “only 4 percent of the nation’s schoolchildren live in counties where coronavirus transmission is low enough for full-time in-person learning without additional restrictions.” The CDC is essentially like, Okay basically nowhere in the U.S. meets our guidelines to reopen classrooms, but here are the guidelines anyway, so good luck?!

According to this map, only the green areas meet the CDC’s thresholds for weekly coronavirus cases and test-positivity rates to safely reopen in-classroom learning. All the yellow areas (i.e. basically everywhere) would only meet the threshold for hybrid learning.

Full in-person learning is only recommended by the CDC in areas that report fewer than 50 new cases per 100,000 people in a week and a seven-day positivity rate of less than 8 percent. According to the Times‘ analysis, “only about one-sixth of America’s counties qualified as of late last week — mostly in more sparsely populated areas.” And this criteria is just for elementary schools. Based on the CDC’s guidance, the majority of middle and high schools across the country only meet the criteria to remain at remote learning (in red in this map below).

Many schools are, and have been, ignoring the guidance completely — like Florida — which has basically had schools open throughout the pandemic. However, if Florida wanted to follow the CDC’s guidelines, the CDC would say that only three Florida counties meets the requirements to offer 100% in-person learning.

New York Times

Weirdly, Jasmine Reed, a CDC. spokeswoman, told The New York Times that these are only “recommendations” and they don’t want the strict guidelines to be the reason some states are keeping schools closed, which leads many to wonder… what are the guidelines for then?

Though, considering how deeply allergic Americans are to the government “telling them what to do,” (**eye-roll**) it makes perfect sense that the CDC would release sensible and science-based guidelines and then tell Americans “but honestly just do whatever you want because we know you’re going to anyway.”

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Want To Help Your Kids Become Better Readers? Turn On The Subtitles

The next time someone makes you feel guilty for letting your little watch TV, show ‘em this

Mamas have it hard. There’s c-section shaming, formula shaming, snack food shaming, and yes, TV shaming. While all mom-shaming is ridiculous and needs to stop, its great to have an honest-to-goodness real-life study you can fall back on.

Turns out, in order to feel less guilty about our kiddos watching TV, we can #turnonthesubtitles. A new organization called…well… Turn On The Subtitles, is here to help your kiddos learn and make you feel less guilty about screen time. The group maintains switching on the subtitles while kids are watching tv can double the odds of a child becoming good at reading, the initiative claims.

Same Language Subtitling (SLS) is the concept of subtitling (or captioning) audio-visual material in the ‘same’ language as the outgoing audio. As the video plays, viewers connect the dialogue word for word, so what you hear is what’s written on the screen in perfect synchronicity.

It’s one of those head-slapping ‘why didn’t I think of it’ moments. Of course, turning on the subtitles will help kiddos. Giving kids something to read that they will find interesting is key to growing life-long reading habits. A comprehensive international review shows in “an academic study of 2,350 children, 34% became good readers with schooling alone. But when exposed to 30 minutes a week of subtitled film songs, that proportion more than doubled to 70%.”

Stephen Fry has been tapped to talk about the project.

The organization says the biggest push for subtitles on television has been in India, but the positive impact of using subtitles as a way to boost literacy has also been confirmed ‘in several English and non-English speaking countries’. Turn On The Subtitles says that as a whole, these studies demonstrate that exposure to captions which match the sound directly can contribute to reading advancement and learning language.

The idea has been gaining interest.

The new program stresses the key to the literacy gains is in showing content that is compelling to the viewer. Turn On The Subtitle’s website quotes MIT’s John Gabrieli, a researcher who works in the field of cognitive neurosciences. Gabrieli explains how emotion and reason “propel learning very powerfully.” SLS of audio-visual material that is appealing to kids pushes a constant flow of associations in the brain that has already figured out the correlation of language and letter-sound correspondence.

“As someone working in Deaf Education, I absolutely love this plea from the wonderful @stephenfry about the benefit and importance of using subtitles,” a Twitter user posted. “#TurnOnTheSubtitles”

Worried that your kiddo won’t watch new shows with subtitles? That’s ok. The concept works even better with things your little one has seen over and over again. The research shows that in the case of often watched media, subtitles add an extra advantage of predictable text. Your kiddo knows what’s coming, and the text on the screen bolsters that knowledge.

The organization has asked parents and teachers to spread the word by sharing the message with others. Their hope is that by turning on the subtitles, television time can naturally become reading time too.

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Ask Scary Mommy: Help! My Four-Year-Old Is Giving Everyone The Bird

Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.

This week: What do you do when your preschooler won’t stop giving everyone the bird? Got a question? Email advice@scarymommy.com 

Dear Scary Mommy,

I have an issue that I’m too scared to post about in my moms group because I can only imagine the judgement some moms would fling my way. But, my preschooler (4 years old) won’t stop flipping people off. He flips off his teacher behind her back when he’s upset, he flips off his classmates during outside time, he flips me off, he flips off strangers when we are stopped at a red lights. He even flipped off his Nana on Zoom! Now his dad and I do curse, so he’s heard some choice words, but we do not flip people (or each other) off. I’m not sure where he learned it, but we can’t seem to make him unlearn it. I think he got attention for it at school, and the shocked reactions fueled the fire. But now, he won’t stop. We’ve tried talking him through what it means and why it’s not nice, time-outs, and even letting him flip things off in his bedroom only. None of it works. It was mildly amusing at first, but now it’s getting old. What the heck do I do here? 

Okay, I know what you are describing is a real problem and I totally get why you are upset. But can we pause for a second to acknowledge how incredibly hilarious this is?

Your kid likely has no idea what flipping someone off means exactly, but is basically doing what every last one of us wishes that we could – telling people exactly what we think of them, and how irritating and annoying they can be. I mean, this kid is living his best life, and I can’t help but envy him.

But back to your query. As I mentioned above, your child really, truly likely has no idea what giving someone the middle finger even means. He’s four years old, after all! But what he does know is that doing this is getting him a lot of attention, and he likely revels in that.

It probably doesn’t help that everyone he does this to is seeming shocked and upset by his actions. It’s understandable that people are having this reaction, because flipping someone off is not considered socially acceptable behavior, especially in environments like school, and among one’s grandparents.

However, the downside in feeling offended by his behavior is that it only seems to egg your child on, which is the opposite of what you want. I know you can’t fully control how others react, but if you are able to convey to others that they might want to try a “gray rock” approach to the whole situation—where you don’t react, or at least underreact to the situation—that might really help make the behavior disappear.

You can at least try this at home. Look him in his eyes and explain, gently but firmly, that his preferred gesture is something that many people don’t like, or think it’s mean. Then when he does it again, rather than lecturing him about it, doing a timeout, or trying to redirect him, just don’t really respond. Change the subject, move onto another activity, etc. Think of things that make your child feel happy and like he is getting attention. Swap this attention-getting activity for something more wholesome—or at least, you know, less expletive-filled.

Remember that whatever happens, and however long it takes for this behavior to end, it will end. Your kid isn’t going to be flipping people off for the rest of his life. Take comfort in the story of Scary Mommy’s Deputy Editor, Rita, whose youngest son was your son’s exact age when he also found an affinity for the middle finger – and its origins were innocent. “At the time, he called it ‘Spider-Man fingers,'” she explains. “He truly thought it was the motion Spider-Man made when he shot webs. But it got a reaction that he found hilarious.”

 

Courtesy of Rita Templeton

She’s happy to report that this phase didn’t last long; he’s eight now, and frequently praised for his good manners. (Whew!)

As for the jerks in your life who might judge you … well, they need to keep in mind that your kid is only four, isn’t doing this to be malicious, and that there is really no issue here besides the fact that he picked up something you’d rather he didn’t. Unless you were actively teaching your kid to curse people out, this doesn’t reflect poorly on you. It’s just a cute and hilarious kid mistake. Truly.

And for people who continue to judge you no matter what … well, you know what to do about that. Or maybe you can get your kid to do it for you.

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There’s A Strong Link Between Gender Stereotypes And Sexual Assault — Let’s Talk About It

I have been on a period time piece kick lately when it comes to my entertainment consumption. Recent highlights were “Bridgerton” on Netflix and then the over 30-hour audiobook of Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina.” While clothing, technology, and transportation have drastically changed, some things are still exactly the same — specifically, stereotypical gender roles when it comes to dating and sex.

We don’t have the same system of courting or arranging marriages these days, but we sure as fuck have a problem with thinking it’s a man’s job to pursue a woman and then eventually propose while a woman waits patiently for the right one — or anyone — to come along, and then hope he shits or gets off the pot. Was I watching and listening to relationships from the 1800s or catching up on the latest “Bachelor” gossip and being reminded of nearly every romantic comedy ever made?

And was I entertained or annoyed? Both, because some things are painfully comical about the way society continues to revolve around the heteronormative way of thinking that all couples are straight and cisgender. But what isn’t funny is that this power dynamic has contributed to — and continues to contribute to — sexual violence.

Sexual assault is about power. Boys who grow up to believe in society’s standard of masculinity are more likely to be sexually aggressive in words and actions. Males who believe in gender norms are more likely to sexually assault someone because they believe they are more powerful; they use sex to show that dominance.

Because sex and data around sexual violence is often discussed in binary, cisgender, straight terms, I’m going to present my opinions and facts in those same terms. However, transgender boys or more masculine teens and men will feel the same pressure to live up to society’s gender rules as their cisgender peers. The same goes for transgender girls and femme presenting folks.

When we reframe general expectations for all kids, no matter their gender, we can reduce the long-lasting and more dangerous expectations that live in how they view sex, and what they see as normal. This starts by teaching kids from an early age that any toy, article of clothing, or hairstyle is for any gender. We should encourage our kids to have mixed-gender friendships without placing weird sexual connotations on them that suggest he is a “heartbreaker” and she will need to be “locked up someday” because she’s so pretty. We need to raise kids who believe any gender can do any job and get paid equally for it.

We need to continuously talk about the ways sexism fuels our patriarchal society so that we know how to change it; if both men and women have a high tolerance for sexist remarks and unwanted sexual advances, women are less likely to see what they are experiencing as assault, and men are more likely to continue their behavior. When we make women less vulnerable and dependent on men in the home and workplace, we make them less vulnerable to sexual violence too. If a woman isn’t afraid of losing her job, her home, or her children, she is more willing to seek help and support. And if a man knows his bullshit doesn’t have leverage, he’s less likely to use it.

From birth and gender reveal parties to locker rooms and sexual education classes in high school, there are patterns and messages that feed our children’s notion of what it means to be male or female. Girls are emotional, nurturing, and need to be protected. Girls internalize that they are meant to look pretty and act in ways that attract boys. They develop the idea that they are objects who need to depend on men for safety, financial security, and sexual identity.

On the other side, boys are told to be tough and brave. They internalize the idea that they are the protectors and will someday be the man of the house. There is still stigma around women being the breadwinner of a family and even more so around the idea of a man being a stay-at-home dad. These messages mix with normalized locker room talk and the objectification of women. Boys begin to see themselves as superior to girls — in part because their peers consider being called a girl an insult — and a girl’s virginity becomes something to take. This is why so much of consent focuses on the “no.”

We are constantly telling our boys to listen to a girl’s no, while girls are more likely taught to say no as if they aren’t sexual beings too. Consent is the most important part of sex, but if we give girls agency to be sexual and not simply objects and passive participants, then we give them power. We can give their virginity, or lack thereof, back to them instead of it being something that was “taken” and now owned by someone else. Absolutely teach every sexual participant to listen for and look for signs of no, but we also need to normalize a female saying yes. We need to reduce the stigma around older girls and women who are excited about sex and pursue it rather than wait to respond to a man’s advances. A guy fucks 100 girls and is a king, yet a girl fucks just as many and she’s trash? Fuck that noise. We need to stop slut-shaming girls and women and let them own their sexuality.

If we don’t intentionally break gender stereotypes, we will continue to raise our children in ways that implicitly feed into rape culture. Whether the assault is from a stranger, domestic partner, date, or the fragile ego of a husband who begs his way to a yes, rape is about control. To be clear, coerced sex is rape even if you are married. No one needs sex, and no one’s desire for it is more deserving than someone’s lack of interest. If we want to reduce sexual violence, we need to improve gender equality, so that we shift expectations and distribute power to the point of creating respect.

I realize this is a very rooted problem — see “Anna Karenina” for ways women were blamed for a man’s infidelity and lack of purity — but we can start trimming back the tree that bears the fruit.

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Why You Should Schedule Some One-On-One Time With Your Kids

I don’t know exactly when we began doing it, but for the past several years, my wife and I have been scheduling one-on-one time with our three children. Once a month my wife spends a couple of hours each weekend, one on one, with one of our children. I do the same the next month, and we just alternate months. We have three kids, so that’s three weekends (and on the fourth weekend, Mel and I go on a date).

Ultimately, the child picks what we do. Before COVID-19, we might go ice skating, or swimming at the pool, or to see a movie. It’s something our children have always really looked forward to, but ever since things got locked down because of COVID-19, it seems like this one-on-one time has taken on a new level of importance.

Sure, there isn’t as much to do outside of the house at the moment. Most of the time, we just end up finding a room that’s unoccupied and streaming a movie together. Two weeks ago, I took my 13-year-old on a drive around town so he could play Pokémon Go. But it’s not what we’ve been doing on these outings that matters anyway; it’s the fact that it’s been giving my children something to look forward to, and it’s giving them time to chat with someone. With all the stress of learning from home, and not being around friends, and living through a pandemic, this is pretty important — particularly with my oldest two, who are 11 and 13.

Last weekend I was scheduled to spend time with my 11-year-old daughter, Norah, and she decided to watch the high school musical “Zombies” on Disney Plus. Before the movie, we were driving to pick up a food order from Target, and listening to the “Zombies” movie soundtrack. She knew every song, which kind of surprised me considering she claimed to have never seen the movie. I asked her about that, and she gave me this very simple response, “I’ve been saving it.”

“For what?” I asked.

“To watch it with you,” she said.

I don’t know how long she’d been wanting to watch that movie, and I don’t know how long she’d been listening to the songs. But what I do know is that when she said she’d been saving it, she gave me this bashful smile, and it seemed clear that she wanted nothing else but to watch this movie with her father. The real kicker was, this was the most anticipation and excitement I’d seen in her eyes for months. Like all kids, this has been a difficult time for her, so it was a refreshing change to see her excitement.

Going back to the aforementioned outing with my 13-year-old to hunt for Pokémon: We started out by hitting up KFC. Once again, this was his suggestion. Then we drove around our small little Oregon town, his face glued to his phone, giving me directions, as we searched out for the coveted “shiny” Pokémon. We found Pokémon gyms, and we participated in Pokémon raids, and I’ll just say, I had no idea what we were doing exactly. But I wasn’t really in it for the Pokémon. I was in it for the conversation. As we drove, we talked. We talked about how much he missed his friends, and we talked about how hard it was to learn from home, and how he was tired of Zoom, and wished we had been able to go swimming at the community pool this summer. We talked about soccer practice, and that he hopes he will get to play again next summer. We talked about his best friend, and how he’s worried about him because he’s been depressed recently.

It was just my son and I, chatting as we drove. He had a good vent. And when you’re dealing with a teenager, getting them to open up like that is no easy task, and I don’t know if it would have happened with anyone else in the car. By the end of our time hunting for Pokémon, I could tell that he’d been able to get a lot off his chest, and it just felt good to let him tell me about his problems.

As a family, we are all we have right now. We work and learn from home, and my kids need someone to talk to. Setting aside this time with them one-on-one has really given them the opportunity to open up. It’s given them something to look forward to during a dark time, and it really isn’t all that hard of an investment. Just an hour or two on the weekends can make an unbelievable difference.

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Too Much Screen Time During A Pandemic? STFU, Dude

On Saturday, New York Times journal Matt Ritchel published an essay titled “Children’s Screen Time Has Soared In The Pandemic, Alarming Parents And Researchers.” Shocking exactly zero actual caregivers, Ritchel cites hysterical stories and statistics about children whose screen time has become their “whole life.” An expert who once told parents not to worry about kids and screens backs off her earlier assertions; scary numbers tell us kids are playing double the amount of Roblox they played last May. “Remaining limits have vaporized,” he says. A professor warns gravely that there will be a “a period of epic withdrawal.” “Legions of kids under 10” are on TikTok! Fortnite! Snapchat! Parents are hopeless. Kids play first-person shooters. Video games have become social tools and emotional outlets.

Hey, Matt? Go to hell.

My Kids Do Stuff, Dude

Here’s the deal, Matty. My husband and I have pre-existing conditions. My three sons, ages 7, 9, and 11, have been socially isolated since March 13th, 2020. We had enough foresight and privilege to buy an above-ground pool and a trampoline, but it’s January. There are no amphibians to capture; yesterday we had wind gusts of 30 miles per hour; and anyway, my two youngest will likely emerge from this needing therapy because they’re too nervous to walk beyond our mailbox.

We are super interactive parents. We play board games. We do arts and crafts. We chase them in the backyard. Moreover, they have each other to play with, and they’re close in age, so they invent games of their own; my two youngest have created a bizarro LEGO world of creatures called “blubbies” who live on “Blubbie Island.” My middle son makes movies. My youngest has an obsession with a game called Castle Panic, which he plays alone. My oldest listens to podcasts.

My Kids Can Only Do Stuff For So Long Before They Need Screens

But that stuff only lasts so long.

Eventually, their tablets come out. I work. My husband works. We need alone time, because there is a pandemic going on and newsflash: we are trapped in the same square footage as our children 24/7, (almost) 365. Sometimes we want to have an adult conversation without being interrupted about:

  1. who is cheating at a board game
  2. who has moved Blubbie Island
  3. who irrevocably destroyed whose art project

So we let them take out their Kindle Fires, like we always have, because we’ve always allowed reasonable amounts of screen time. They might play Bad Piggies. They might play Rise of Berk. They might play Jurassic World: The Game. Or they might watch “Gravity Falls,” “Amphibia”, or some version of “How to Train Your Dragon.” This keeps our kids quiet, still and gives us needed adult time. And honestly? With a pandemic going on, we need more adult time than usual. I looked at my husband the other night and said, “Just put on a damn movie for them so we can hang out.”

“Yes,” he said.

On went “Isle of Dogs.” I refuse to be shamed.

It’s not like we shut our bedroom door and banged each other, though there would have been nothing wrong with that. We read books without interruptions, talked about work, and quoted “Sealab: 2021” at each other. We needed to decompress. I still refuse to be shamed.

Klaus Vedfelt/Getty

And All Screen Time Isn’t Equal

Yeah, my kids get more screen time than they did before the pandemic — far more. But Matt, all screen time is not created equal. My oldest chats with his friends. He needs social interaction. He can’t get social interaction in other ways right now. If I handed him a phone and told him to call people, you’d bitch about that, too. So he might as well read facial cues and learn to type. They also play Dungeons and Dragons via Facebook Messenger Kids. No screen time shame.

What do my other sons do? Yeah, some of their screen time is “Star Wars: Clone Wars.” But they also watch “Planet Earth: 2.” They play a game called Skeleton Anatomy made for anatomy students that makes them memorize all their body’s bones. My youngest beat a puzzle game called Monument Valley. My oldest reads Darth Vader comics and other books.

They play with MIT’s Scratch coding program. They use drawing programs. They make movies. One game actually helps them memorize elements.

All this counts as screen time, according to any metric, but I don’t think it’s causing their brains to rot.

So STFU About Screen Time

We are parents living through a global pandemic. This is unprecedented. We never thought we’d wake to this nightmare whose proportions are quickly becoming Biblical. I worry about whether my kids are learning resilience, civic responsibility, and kindness towards one another. I’m not super concerned about if I’ll have to detox them from playing computer games when this is all over.

Yeah, my 11-year-old is currently playing a “Star Wars” shooting game. Shame me all you want. I have to work.  My other two are playing some game involving a periodic table involving my computer and a Kindle Fire. So much screen time, and I don’t care. Guess what? We’re surviving the hardest time we’ve ever had as a family as best we can. Screen time is the least of my concerns.

Stop shaming parents. We need our devices. Our kids need their devices. Taking their phones and cutting them off from their friends, like one set of parents in the essay? That seems unnecessarily cruel to me, and far more damaging than staring at a screen for a bit longer than normal.

You people do you, of course. Isn’t that what we always say now? But, I’ll hand my kids a screen, like most parents in America, and they will be just fine.

The post Too Much Screen Time During A Pandemic? STFU, Dude appeared first on Scary Mommy.