Care and Feeding

We Screwed Up and Let Our 4-Year-Old Get Addicted to His Tablet

Is there any way to walk this back before he starts school?

A boy looking up from his tablet.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My husband and I have a 4-year-old son who is so sweet, kind, and helpful. He will be starting school in September and is absolutely thrilled. But here presents our issue.

He has a tablet that he has complete control over 24/7. Including overnight. Initially we used it to help with his speech delay and enunciation issues. But now that his speech has improved, I don’t think this is healthy to have 24/7 access to his tablet. When we try to get him to give up the tablet, he does so, but will be up for the entire night whining. It’s basically become a crutch for sleep. During the day, however, he will switch between his tablet and playing with his toys and figurines using imaginary play.

How do I get him to ditch the tablet so we can get him on a healthy routine before school starts?

— We Screwed Up Big Time

Dear W.S.U.B.T.,

You did screw up, but you can recover and your son will move on from his all-tablet, all-the-time days just as soon as you put them to an end. Create specific times in which your son is allowed to play with his tablet throughout the day—maybe just a short session after breakfast, during car rides, and once more during the evening—and adhere to them. For a bedtime ritual, replace the tablet with an audio book so that he has content to help him fall asleep.

He’s going to complain, and that’s OK. In time, he’ll get used to life without his device by his side—just don’t hand it back to him every time he cries about it. Be strong; breaking this habit now is important to his future relationship with technology. Again, he is going to cry! Be firm and adjust his habits, or you’ll be complaining about this for the rest of his life. Good luck to you.

— Jamilah

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