Media Meltdown

In my last post I shared how we had started taking Handsome in to worship with us at church and allowed him access to his tablet during that hour. It was going beautifully for a couple of weeks. And then it all came crashing down horribly. Our plan backfired.

We are in a constant struggle with Handsome and controlling his media consumption. He becomes obsessed with media to the point where we cannot recover him from the stimulation. Oftentimes dealing with the relapse for days on end from one hour of tablet time.

We have tried everything we can think of to no avail. We have tried setting a timer to limit how much time he gets to spend on the tablet or with a movie. We have tried removing all the media apps and allowing access only to educational apps. We have had to jailbreak devices to allow covert locking of native apps such as the iTunes or Play stores, YouTube, Amazon, and search engines. None of those tactics work, and Handsome can unlock a device with Fort Knox security within minutes…and if he doesn’t unlock it, he calls 9-1-1. No joke.

We have tried to limit Handsome to one 30-minute show per day. We have tried to limit him to one favorite movie per day. We have tried to limit screen time to Friday night only. To Saturday afternoon only. To Sunday morning only.

We have tried to exchange screen time for positive behaviors or as a reward. We have tried to use the tablet or movies as a highly desired outcome for less desired work. We have tried removing screen time or media from the evenings in hopes for a better bedtime transition.

We have tried everything we can possibly imagine to try to help Handsome manage his consumption and obsession without completely destroying his spirit in the process.

He craves media and screen time. To the point of completely disengaging from us and the world around him.

Don’t get me wrong…it has been an incredible blessing to us countless times over. Sure, we have had to rely on it a multitude of times as a crutch to get us through a difficult situation…such as four days in the hospital with him hooked up to a skull cap of EEG wires. We have used it as a crutch to help us enjoy field trips with our other boys. We have used it as a crutch to help us go to church. We have used it as a crutch to occupy him {keep him safe} while the rest of us worked on a major project.

But the screen time and media play has also taught him how to spell words that we never thought he would understand. Watching Baby Einstein videos has given Handsome opportunity to repeatedly hear words that he would begin to repeat. His desire to watch his favorite shows has motivated him to learn how to speak AND sign to “watch TV show please” or “Baby Einstein please” and “play tablet please.”

But we have also experienced times when we embarked on a long and difficult journey without the tablet or media, and had a wonderful time. Such as our ten day vacation to Colorado a couple years ago. We intentionally left his tablet, backup tablet, backup batteries, etc. at home. As an emergency backup, we did take along our Chromecast just in case we needed a little movie time in the hotel, but we ended up not using it at all. The end result was a very happy family, and not one of us relied on our devices for anything except taking vacation pictures and sending the occasional picture to family.

So when things came to a disastrous end at church last week, we knew we had to begin an intensive media rehabilitation with the Handsome boy. We also knew that we needed to begin reigning him back in before the baby arrives {which is next month by the way!}. It was a decision long in the making, and the hubs and I both knew that we needed to help him let go of the tablet for a while so that his coping with the major changes in our family doesn’t involve him completely disengaging from the family or reality.

It has now been ten days since Handsome has had any screen time or media. No tablets, no phone apps, no TV shows, no movies, no nothing. The result? He’s been so much easier to deal with for the most part. We are still facing some serious behavioral regression {ahem, smearing poop again}…but his overall demeanor and behavior has otherwise been quite pleasant. We have not had one single meltdown in ten days.

Yesterday I decided to brave the elements and take him on an extended errand run. Up to four stops in the whole outing. Without the tablet. I know what you’re thinking…and you’d be correct. I was insane for thinking we were ready to handle that. But it must be done. We have to begin somewhere. We have to begin the process of going out and not getting media to soothe or pacify him {or ourselves} with a tablet to make things easier. Because in the end, they only complicate things more.

It started off iffy. He hadn’t pooped yet before we were leaving the house. So that’s the really difficult wild card in the opponent’s hand. I knew at any moment he could use his full bowels to his advantage to make things extremely difficult for me if he wanted to.

If that wasn’t stressful enough, we were also beginning a new seating arrangement in the car. Handsome’s usual seat is about to become the baby’s seat. We figured it might be best to transition him to his new seating arrangement before baby arrives. Handsome did not like this idea. It took multiple efforts, but we finally got him into buckled into his new seat.


To help him cope with the possibility of musical seats in the car, I have told my other boys that they will have to take turns sitting with him in the back. I don’t want him to expect the same brother to always be next to him and then freak out if it ever has to change. Believe it or not, my oldest is the one that has the biggest issue with the change in seating and rotating seats.

For our outing, I had up to four stops I needed to make. Need is a strong word. The first stop was Babies R Us. I am still shopping for a car seat for the baby, so why not check there first, right? After seeing that the car seat I was interested in was still $70 higher than any competitors, even with their going out of business discount, I realized that I understand why the store is going under. I never liked shopping at BRU before, and after yesterday, I still don’t. I didn’t even shop on their website. I did find a couple of good deals, but nothing spectacular. I also wanted to check out Toys R Us, and luckily, the two stores were in one. We did score a good deal on the game Stratego for my other boys, and also a couple of other random things. Handsome picked up a Baby Einstein book, and I let him carry it around the store and bought it for him. I didn’t care if the book would end up being $15 {it wasn’t PTL for that}, but I thought it a good investment if it meant we could manage the rest of the outing.


Handsome was very chatty all throughout the store and even enjoyed looking at a few things. We got through BRU/TRU without any issues. Stops #1&2…check!

Next up, I wanted to go to Buy Buy Baby. I needed to look at car seats in a more relaxed setting, not the ridiculous frenzy of a going out of business store. Plus, when I buy it, I want to buy it from a store I can actually return it to in the event that I change my mind or find a better deal.

So we went to BBB next. They did not have a rental wheelchair for us to use, so Handsome had to walk with us. He struggled a bit, but managed ok. I let him take the new book in with us. We shopped for fun stuff first…the two big boys had seen a couple of things in the store recently that they wanted to buy for the baby, so we shopped for those first. When it was time to look at the car seats I asked for assistance, and they actually installed one in my car for me so I could see how it fit. Meanwhile, my three boys waited patiently inside the store while I was outside in the parking lot with the sales guy. I ended up not buying a car seat that day, but left the store with a couple of things to mull over before we purchase.

We got through BBB without any issues, despite having to wait multiple times. Stop #3…check!

My final stop was Lidl. By the time we were walking in to the store, Handsome was limping. He was really struggling to walk. I felt bad for him. We walked slowly through the store, unfortunately we did not see a rental wheelchair here either. We picked up the small handful of items we needed and survived the grocery store visit! There were two crying babies/toddlers in the store, and that’s always a really tough situation. When Handsome hears a baby crying, he cries too. Luckily we diffused his overwhelm and we all came out unscathed!


Here we are in Lidl. And now let me swallow the lump in my throat as I realize Handsome is now taller than me.

We got through Lidl without any issues. Stop #4…check.

We survived it all without a tablet, without a meltdown, without any issues!

By the way, the book ended up only costing $3. I didn’t care that he already owned two copies of the same book. It was money well spent! And bonus, he did not poop while we were out. Hallelujah, praise the Lord, pass around the collection plate!

So, for now, it looks as though the break from media is a good thing. As with autism though, the rules are never written in stone. We will do this for as long as it works and then adapt as we have to in order to keep moving forward.

Thanks for stopping by today!

4 thoughts on “Media Meltdown

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