Most of the moms I know admit they use the TV as a quick electronic babysitter. The chores are piling up, there’s laundry to fold, dinner to make, emails to send. But it’s nearly impossible to complete a task when the kids are demanding attention. Just one show would buy a little time.
But wait! A voice inside says that I shouldn’t let my little ones watch TV. A recent New York Times article stated that some workers in Silicon Valley won’t let their children use screens at all! This lingers in my mind and wags it’s finger at me as I pick up the remote. But life with screens is inevitable, right? What’s the big deal.
This back and forth uneasiness left me wondering what the experts say about screen time for young children. The following are a few of the findings reported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association for the Education of the Young Child, and the Fred Rogers Center.
- Screen time is not recommended for any infants and toddlers under 18 months. This makes sense because babies learn best from interactions with people. The language and facial expressions made when interacting with another person provides feedback the child needs to nourish their growing brains. One exception to this recommendation is video chatting. The benefits of seeing and hearing a special family member when they are away is undeniable.
- For children 18 months and up, watch or interact with technology alongside the child. This co-viewing allows the child to ask questions and have conversations with others about they things they see on the screen. This shared experience can also help the child connect what they see with experiences in their everyday lives.
- Choose media content that is high-quality. Sesame Street, PBS Kids, and other sources offer tv/media that is educational. When in doubt go to https://www.commonsensemedia.org for guidance.
- For all children limit the time spent using electronic media. Ensure that the child is balancing screen time with physical activity, play, reading, social interaction with peers, etc. One safe recommendation is 1 hr per day. (As the child grows this may increase)
- Finally, model the behavior you want your children to learn. Put down cell phones, turn off the tv when nobody is watching, and find ways to share the many ways technology can be used to create, educate, and inspire. Actively using/sharing technology with support from an adult will build the child understanding and appreciation for the positive role screens have in our lives.
Go to healthychildren.org to create your own family media plan. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/media/Pages/default.aspx#home