AIBU About Screen Time?

(93 Posts)
LadyNym Thu 13-Aug-15 08:21:38

I suspect I am being unreasonable but I guess this is the test for just how unreasonable I'm being.

DS1 is three and being assessed for ASD (he definitely has ASD but it's taking an age to get a diagnosis, though it should be at an end soonish). DS2 is 16 months and I have my suspicions but it's too early to tell if he is also autistic. Both boys are hard work.

I used to limit DS1 to no more than about two hours of screen time a day (it was the NHS guidelines I'd read or some other probably arbitrary limit ) but I've gradually increased that until now I'm sure he watches far too much TV and goes on an old laptop now on top of that. It's just so hard to do anything with him. He doesn't 'do' imaginative play so if I get out all his figures he'd prefer to line them up than actually 'play' with them. If he becomes overloaded or bored he starts playing up by basically just doing things he knows he shouldn't over and over (hitting his brother, biting my clothes, throwing toys, running through to rooms he's not allowed into, kicking, tipping out all his toys, finding anything he can reach that he's not allowed etc.). I mean, there are not even seconds in between me stopping him doing one thing to him moving on to the next. Without locking him in a room I don't know how to stop him. He's worse if we've been somewhere or had someone round and his usual routine was interrupted.

And the noise is constant. I know everyone says that about their children but he seriously makes noise all the time. If he's not speaking continuously (his language is very advanced for his age but when he's walking around a lot of it doesn't really make sense; it's more like a stream of consciousness than actual conversation/information), then he's 'verbal stimming' where he'll make various noises (humming one note in short bursts over and over, making a 'brrrr' noise with his lips, cackling, screaming, shouting sounds, babbling) or just hitting/banging things. He'll also randomly scream in his brother's face a lot.

I try to do things with him (drawing, painting, Playdough, making train tracks) but once it's set up he doesn't really like actually playing with things so they don't tend to hold his attention very long. He likes going outside but we're living with my parents at the moment and they have a huge garden (with ponds and concrete steps etc.) so trying to keep him and his brother together and safe is quite exhausting.

I also don't want to do anything that might prompt a meltdown (yesterday he screamed for about 20 minutes and ended up making himself sick because I told him the guy who trimmed my parents' hedge last week was on holiday).

I feel like a shit mum but I don't know how else to get through the day sometimes other than sticking him in front of the TV/a laptop. Although, to be honest, that's no guarantee. I try to limit it more to when his brother's napping but it's not always the case (his brother can be hard work, too, and has decided to start climbing anything and everything so I spend a lot of time trying to move furniture and get him off of tables/chairs/shelves).

I'm sorry it's so long. AIBU to stick DS1 in front of a screen half the day?

alrayyan Thu 13-Aug-15 08:29:30

I think a lot of people will make a lot of comments and (passive aggressive) suggestions to alternatives shortly so I would like to start by saying that this whole tv guilt thing is weiiiird in real life.
I have never met anyone who even says words like screen time.
I grew up with radio 4 playing in the car and everywhere else, my mum used to carry around a portable.
I don't really like kids tv but we have loads of tvs and there is always something on somewhere. It's a nice comforting noise.

I realise this won't be believed but we eat sugar and think hoops are food too.

step away from aibu and do what works. If it helps kids be less anxious then that's good.

PolterGoose Thu 13-Aug-15 08:30:08

I don't think so at all flowers

My ds is 12 now, also has autism and has always had more screen time than 'is recommended'. His is a mix of watching documentaries and films, Minecraft and other console games, messing about programming on Scratch, writing and other creative stuff. He mostly refuses to go out and has no interest in seeing 'friends' out of school or attending clubs or activities, it means we have a lot of hours to fill. He's doing well at school and making amazing progress.

Do what you need to do, if screens are what relaxes him then use them.

RoganJosh Thu 13-Aug-15 08:31:18

That sounds really tough. I've no ASD experience but I'm sure a bit more screen time wouldn't be the end of the world.

My middle child is veryuch a constructor rather than an imaginative player, perhaps you are expecting too much from train track etc?
Mine will spend 20 mins on making some 'dough' but then not actually play with it, which is fine. Or loads of time mixing paint colours in saucers but not actually want to paint for more than a minute.
We also have a lot of success with playing with dried beans in different containers. Playing with a bowl of washing up bubbles etc. Much more 'babyish' axtivities than I'd expect.
How are trips out? We are out for a lot of the day or mine fight.

alrayyan Thu 13-Aug-15 08:33:20

and that's why I went back to work....coloured beans in containers? its only early but that makes me want to drink gin and smoke crack. shock

DJThreeDog Thu 13-Aug-15 08:34:02

My boys do not have ASD a have far more screen time than they should.

I say give yourself a pass for the holidays, it's just hard work.

RoganJosh Thu 13-Aug-15 08:35:47

Oh no, I was really trying to be helpful with suggestions, really not PA or judgemental.

RoganJosh Thu 13-Aug-15 08:36:12

Too many 'really's there.

alrayyan Thu 13-Aug-15 08:38:15

The only person who was aggressive and rude was me and I apologise unreservedly.
I may have a fleeting thought but just because I have a keyboard in front of me doesn't mean I should share them and I feel horrible now.
thanks

RoganJosh Thu 13-Aug-15 08:38:49

alayran what's wrong with something that is quick to get out and they play with happily for ages? I suggested it because it is easy.

Hellionandfriends Thu 13-Aug-15 08:43:48

Is there anyway of making the ponds safe? So you can just chuck him out into the garden. There are quite a few solutions. It might be worth taking them out more, even if it's just walks/park/picnic to balance it out?

I understand why he's having more tv and it must really help day to day. You could always aim to gradually reduce screen time as he gets older and in the meantime try and vary what he sees, so some of it is educational (dinosaurs animals etc)

I'm on the other end with a 20 something year old relative with autism who is totally addicted to gaming. It has really got in the way of him being involved in other stuff and is very isolating.

CarriesBucketOfBlood Thu 13-Aug-15 08:45:21

Just a suggestion for construction toys that you don't have to 'play with' very long. What about a domino run? When I was younger I used to spend about half an hour setting it up, then knock it down in 30 seconds and then spend another half an hour building it back up again. A morning went by very fast.

Hellionandfriends Thu 13-Aug-15 08:50:46

Of all my kids, only one likes imaginative play and art. The others are into construction and excersise. Is it worth getting a small trampoline? Paddling pool? Scooter? Balance bike?

Turquoiseblue Thu 13-Aug-15 08:53:30

The poster who says do away with the guilt is right. It sounds like an exhausting scenario.
If your son is nearing a diagnosis - will you then have some input from therapists ? The reason I ask is seeing a clinical psychologist / OT/ sLT could be helpful in terms of getting some strategies for behaviour.

Some suggestions might be (and I apologies if any if this is passive aggressive)

1 a story board or pictures with what routine for the day is- so TV for 30 mins (do you have a timer so he can count down and watch the time etc too) then maybe play a certain game for 30 mins
You can use pics / cut outs to give choices too so he feels in control of his time table/ choices, and selects fome some optional activities, he sets timer etc - and he also knows what to expect - I m probably not explaining it very well sorry, but having some OT/ psych input can be great with this and this can help with behaviour and routine.

OneBigHeadache Thu 13-Aug-15 08:53:42

My son has ASD, ADHD and SPD. 'Screen time' Jeez, I hate that phrase is our saviour. DS can't cope with the world the way a NT child can. He is in front of a screen for the majority of the time that we are home. He is forced to takes regular breaks and we will play a board game for a little while or he will play with his toys but these things don't hold his attention at all. Sometimes, if he's taking a break from the PC he'll just sit on the sofa doing nothing (bar bouncing, spinning, flapping) until he is allowed back in front of the screen.
He is learning to code at the moment. He goes on phonics play and mathletics.
He spends a lot of time on Minecraft. It has taught him so much about how things are made, planning, construction etc. So what if he's in front of a screen? He's still learning and not having meltdowns in the meantime! I will often play it with him so it gives us some mummy and son time. I used to feel bad about it, but now I don't.

We do go out a lot but, like you, it is hard work and I'm not entirely sure it's for his benefit. Meltdowns happen every time we go out. Without fail. Obviously that doesn't stop me from going out as I have another DC and it's not fair on them to stay in all the time. Plus my DS needs to burn off his seemingly never ending build up of energy somewhere! So the local park is usually our daily outing!

Please don't feel guilty, the tv, computers etc are not the work of the devil. As long as you're not sticking him in front of the exorcist on tv or letting him play the likes of GTA etc then you are doing him no harm.

Hellionandfriends Thu 13-Aug-15 08:54:16

If constructions his thing, try cellotape (on a dispenser) and using empty tubs, containers, empty washing up bottles, boxes, empty cereal packets to build bridges or make an assault course for cars.

UniversalBagel Thu 13-Aug-15 08:55:06

Don't be so hard on yourself. yes maybe try and limit it when you can. It obviously isn't ideal no but there are much much worse things in life, you having a nervous breakdown being one of them. Parenting even without SN is hard, do what you need to do to get through.

I have to ask though about the rooms he's not allowed into. What are these rooms? I do find it quite odd that there are multiple rooms in your house that children aren't allowed into. I am just asking though and not saying you are wrong to do it, I obviously know nothing about your circumstances, you may have rooms full of priceless artworks for all I know! grin

Hellionandfriends Thu 13-Aug-15 08:56:21

You mustn't feel guilty about the screen time but it's worth reviewing things when you get into your own house and a new routine

SewingAndCakes Thu 13-Aug-15 09:01:35

Ds1 is autistic and he spends a lot of time on his iPad, or playing on the pic, or watching videos on YouTube (of other people playing games, or building PCs, or construction vehicles).

I used to worry about the time he spends on it, and try and limit it but it became so difficult and caused so much disruption and aggression towards his brothers that at the moment I'm letting him choose.

He will decide by himself that he's had enough, and go out and do some gardening (his current interest). We also alternate between a morning out somewhere, in the woods for example (no other people to judge him), and a day in the house. The fewer demands on him the better he is I have found.

If you and your son find it works for you, then just do what you think is right. Don't let other people determine how your life is run flowers

Sirzy Thu 13-Aug-15 09:02:09

Ds (5)is autistic and has SPD. Screen time - or tablet time very little TV interests him - is one of the few things that will keep him calm. He is currently sat looking at google maps as he is knackered from a poor nights sleep and it's how he chills. In a while he will probably use the tablet to help him draw maps and/or road signs.

I guess what I am trying to say is when a child has additional needs all other rules sort of go out the window and it's about finding the balance which works for them. Yes I am sure self proclaimed experts people will judge but unless they are living your life then let them!

CaptainSwan Thu 13-Aug-15 09:12:31

You are right, it is too much TV- almost especially for a child with ASD who will need that much more support. BUT don't take this the wrong way, I can see totally why and how it's come about, the blame isn't with you and you are wanting and needing help and support yourself in order to help your children so no judgement here smile

You say he has good speech but what is his communication like? Can you have a conversation with him? Does he/can he follow basic instructions to go and get things etc. Does he understand 'now' and 'next'? What is your support network like and how long have you been living with your parents? Let me know if you're in London.

PolterGoose Thu 13-Aug-15 09:17:48

Captain are you a parent of a child with autism?

EarlyNewDawn Thu 13-Aug-15 09:18:12

See I think in The long run screen time makes things worse. They never learn to play and you are stuck giving more. Some times it's 'short term pain for long term gain'.

I know people might jump on me for saying this, but I don't think children need any screen time at all. Especially ASD children. I think it's about the parents' needs rather than the child's there.

EarlyNewDawn Thu 13-Aug-15 09:19:22

And screens are known to affect sleep in a negative way...

Sirzy Thu 13-Aug-15 09:19:22

they never learn to play

For a lot of autistics that has nothing at all to do with screen time!

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