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Nannies Are Now Being Asked to Sign Contracts Saying They Won't Let Kids Have Screen Time

The trend started happening in Silicon Valley, where executives are obsessed with keeping kids offline.

Ironically, it’s Silicon Valley parents who want their kids off phones, iPads, TVs, and computers. Many are even making their nannies sign contracts saying they will entertain the kids enough to keep them offline.

But why? Aren’t these the very people who provide us with the latest technology? Well, as The New York Times reports, “Even a little screen time can be so deeply addictive, some parents believe, that it’s best if a child neither touches nor sees any of these glittering rectangles. These particular parents, after all, deeply understand their allure.”

Instead, nannies are playing games like cards or puzzles and heading outdoors in order to keep the kids connected to the real world. The report says keeping kids away from screens “has become a very big deal.”

“The fear of screens has reached the level of panic in Silicon Valley,” said the report. “Vigilantes now post photos to parenting message boards of possible nannies using cellphones near children. Which is to say, the very people building these glowing hyper-stimulating portals have become increasingly terrified of them. And it has put their nannies in a strange position.”

Some celebrities are following the no-tech trend. Actor Jeff Goldblum and wife Emilie Livingston’s kids don’t take tablets to restaurants, according to Us Weekly.  “Every day I’m amazed at how brilliant and creative they are,” Livingston said. “We don’t do cell phones or iPads, so they’re pretty immersed in nature. They create their own little world.” Both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs raised their kids tech-free as well.

According to Business Insider, “Research has found that an eighth-grader's risk for depression jumps 27 percent when he or she frequently uses social media. Kids who use their phones for at least three hours a day are much more likely to be suicidal. And recent research has found the teen suicide rate in the US now eclipses the homicide rate, with smartphones as the driving force.”

Personal Space asked multiple moms and dads of young children and babies how much screen time they allow at home. Here's what they said. (First names only out of fear of being parent-shamed for screen time. All have children under 10 years old.)

Vanessa, 36: “I don’t have any specific rules per se, but my son doesn’t use an iPad or iPhone. I let him watch TV sometimes, hours on the weekend because, let’s be honest, mama needs a break. But, at 4 and a half, I want him playing with tangible toys. Also, as an only child, I want him to get used to and comfortable playing alone. We are lucky that he doesn’t expect a phone or iPad when we go out to eat. I bring crayons and toys to keep him busy. The only time I throw all this out the window, though, is in a plane. Give me an iPad or give me death!!”

Eloise, 35: “iPads are one of those issues that can get super contentious between parents. We have friends who don’t let their kids near electronics and others whose kids are never off their screens. We let our kids use them, but try to encourage them to moderate their own time by keeping them interested in a lot of non-screen activities. If they start misbehaving, a quick threat of yanking the iPad for a couple of days works wonders. And if they lose the privilege of using it, they know what they did.”

Ryan, 37: “Screens are a constant battle in our household. Agree in regards to planes/trains/automobiles, we let them have [them] because survival. We try to limit to no more than one hour a day, and that is hard. [We] have implemented need to earn screen time — like, make bed, brush teeth, clean basement, and then allowed slotted time. Not even sure rewarding with screen time [is] right approach. Screens [are] pretty much a parental nightmare. Fortnite [popular video game] not helping.”

Rachel, 34: “Depends. [On] planes, trains, and automobiles, she can watch for eight hours straight because survival. Otherwise nothing during the week, and weekends only on the TV, maybe 90 minutes, nothing handheld (it’s quite different when they can hold and control it), and I mean not even looking at my phone. Because she used to get more screen time and it turned her into a monster. Seriously. She’s way different and way better without it. Also, this is just my kid but we way limit what she can watch. Never YouTube Kids — it’s got weirdo, messed up things. Only really clean, positive, educational shows. I will also say this is what works for my 4-and-a-half-year old kid... I do not judge or have an opinion on what other families’ rules should be! We have made changes as we realized [what] she needed.”

Laura, 33: “We did very little screen time until 2, which was about the age he started to ask to watch shows he had seen at his grandma’s house. Now at 2 and a half, he watches YouTube Kids (under supervision because there is a lot of really weird s--t) for about 30-45 minutes after nap. He usually winds up getting to watch an episode of a show on TV half the days of the week. Most of the time that is when I need to get something done.”

Dani, 43: “No iPad in the morning. After school iPad at my discretion, limited to no more than 30 min. No iPad after dinner. I figured out that if they were on the iPad in the morning I couldn’t get them through their morning routine without yelling because they were distracted by it. I do not give them my phone ever unless it’s to keep them compliant (like getting their haircut and I need him or her to hold still, or if waiting for a table at a restaurant has become exceptionally long). I’ve had to resort to creative hiding places for the iPad — they hunt for them. We are going to Florida soon... on airplanes, don’t care how much iPad time they get as long as they’re quiet!”

Noelle, 43: “I pretty much agree. No screen in the morning. My yelling has decreased exponentially since I stopped allowing it. Weekends, we are more lenient but we think it is better to be conversing together or playing with friends than being plugged into a screen.”

Deborah, 40: “Two hours total game time per week only on weekends. TV is with family only — all Netflix or HGTV, or Food Network about a half hour each night and movies on weekends. Some movies on long car trips. Kids are 7 and 9. Also [they go to] seven weeks [of] sleep away camp totally unplugged! They always know during the week is off limits and it saves me the headache of having to cut them off and negotiate time. Once my daughter got to middle school and got a phone she had the freedom to use it any time more because she had increased independence and I wanted to be able to get in touch with her any time I needed to.”

So what do authorities on the topic say?

The National Center for Health Research reports that any screen on (even in the background) is bad for kids.

"Research shows that, for children under 3, it’s not just what’s on the screen that matters but that it’s on at all. Even if the TV is simply 'on' in the room where the child is playing, there are negative effects. For example, a study found that when an adult TV program was on in the room where babies or toddlers were playing, the children didn’t play as intently or as long as when the TV was off. 'Background TV' also affects how a child interacts with his or her parents. When the TV is on, parents tend to be more distracted and less attuned to their children and their needs, reducing the quality of the interaction. Young children are better able to complete complex and sophisticated tasks when they work with an adult or older child. When parents are attentive, children are also more likely to engage in independent goal-oriented play, higher quality play, and more focused play."

So what's a multi-tasking parent to do? The NCHR recommends the following:

"Get your toddlers and pre-school age children involved in household chores and let it be a learning opportunity. You can get them small brooms so they can sweep one part of the room while you sweep another, and you can teach them the names and colors of vegetables while you are cooking.

Make it a point to eat dinner together and ask your child about his or her day. If it is a very young child, you can remind him of all the things he did that day, asking a few simple questions, such as what he liked best about the day.

If you really need your child to be occupied during an important call or while you complete a task and you don’t think that she will be able to play long enough by herself, let her listen to pre-recorded stories on a tape or CD."

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