If you've ever experienced a surge of guilt after saying yes to your child's request for iPad time, you may find some comfort in mom of three Katherine Heigl's approach to screen time.
She recently told People her daughters, 6-year-old Adalaide and 9-year-old Naleigh are (like most kids) big fans of iPads, but Heigl isn't beating herself up over it.
"It's okay. It's not the end of civilization as we know it, I promise," she told People.
While Heigl admits that she may need to curtail the girls' tech use a bit, "so much of that use is reading," she explains. "They're reading, they're playing educational games. I don't allow them to scroll through YouTube videos and stuff; I put some limits on that."
Recently, Heigl was hanging out in her living room with her daughters, her husband Josh Kelley and her teen niece, Madison. Everybody had a digital device in their hand, and for a moment, Heigl felt that screen time guilt.
"And then I went, 'Oh, wait a minute — Naleigh and Madison are playing Words With Friends against each other, so essentially they're playing Scrabble, just without the board on the table. Adalaide is coloring on her iPad, Josh is reading the news and I'm reading a book," she said.
"We're all doing things that we would be doing to entertain ourselves, we're just doing them differently than we did them 20 years ago."
Screen time (both ours and the next generation's) gets such a bad rap in some parenting circles, but Heigl makes a very good point: Not all screen time is equal. Using a coloring app on the iPad isn't the same as zoning out in front of egg unwrapping YouTube videos, and reading a book on our phone is a different experience than scrolling (and scrolling and scrolling) through Instagram.
Matthew Johnson, the Director of Education for MediaSmarts, a not-for-profit charitable organization for digital and media literacy, previously told Motherly that while any screen time isn't really developmentally appropriate for toddlers, by the time kids are in elementary school, it's not so black and white, and parents should consider what kids are doing during screen time rather than just how much they get.
"Specifically, instead of counting hours you might consider a creative use of screens—doing an animation project or doing school research—as being counted differently than using it in a passive way."
It sounds like Heigl is finding the middle ground when it comes to her kids' screen time. She doesn't allow phones and iPads at the dinner table, or in her kids' rooms. "I don't allow them in the bedrooms, like, 'Charge them at night where I can see them,'" she says.
Thrive Global founder Arianna Huffington previously told Motherly that keeping phones out of the bedrooms and off the dinner table is an important part of teaching kids good "phone hygiene" and that, "Phones, like all technology, should augment our humanity, not consume it."
Heigl's family enjoys plenty of device-free outings together, so using a coloring app or letting the kids play Words with Friends isn't the end of the world in her world.
Sometimes, mama just wants a few minutes to sit and read her book (even if that book is on a phone), and allowing some limited iPad use allows her to do that.