The lighter side of screen time


I know, I know, we all worry that our kids are spending too much time in front of screens, and what they are seeing is inappropriate, erroneous and a waste of time. It's probably all true. (I'm thinking  of this episode of "Blackish" right now). But I  have noticed, among the disturbingly profane prank text escalations, attempted homework answer sharing schemes, weird amalgamations of animals and magical creatures, a trend: helpfulness.

This summer, some combination of current styles, age (or thyroid?!) related thinning and humidity, I find that my hair is curly. And its been a minute (or a decade) since I was dealing with curly hair, and I was out of my element. But then someone walked by with a crown or gorgeous, frizz free, well defined curls. My 12 year old daughter. Before the next shower, I thought I'd check in with her and see if there was anything I could glean from her routine. It turned out that she had dispensed with the Frizz Ease products I bought her when she complained of frizz early in the summer and developed a plan based on hours of YouTube viewing research. Three rules: NO shampoo (only conditioner). NO combing or brushing, only a finger comb in the shower and sleep with hair piled on a real silk scarf. That last one seems a little princess-y, but I couldn't argue with the results.

And then I was noticing how I seemed to have no eyebrows in photos and I tried to darken mine a little with. . . well, with what? I had a little mascara and some eyeliner but that didn't seem right. Hadn't my 16-year-old recently mentioned becoming a makeup guru? Turns out eyeshadow in a soft brown did the trick, using a small angled brush and starting from the middle. Then blend, blend, blend. Like magic my eyes were framed beautifully in my next photo. I probably look like Groucho Marx in real life. Like real life even counts anymore.

Beauty aside, there are other upsides to a kid with some time for screens. They know what's coming on Netflix this month! They can research the craft they want to do, make a list and be prepared when you walk through the doors of Michael's. They can advise you on the best car to rent on vacation, provided you remember that their first choice probably won't seat everyone in the family and is a Lamborghini. The second choice is safest, cheapest and not a minivan!

Don't get me wrong, we still have those times when I come home to find someone has used a little YouTube knowledge to hook their go kart up to two hoverboard batteries, and it sitting on the garage floor with pliers and a fire extinguisher. But there is something to this great experiment that we are all going through, with access to the whole world available to all of us at all times. We're learning how to answer our questions, what information is reputable, what we really need to know. And in my case, I'm just putting my minions to work. I mean helping my children learn to get what they want, especially if it's something I want.

Illustration by Violet Ferranti