Screen Time For Kids

How bad is screen time for kids?

With all the educational apps, TV shows, and other technology gadgets geared towards making our children “smarter,” I started wondering ...how bad is screen time really? Is it helpful or harmful?

I’m not going to pretend my one year old NEVER plays with my smartphone or watches angry birds for a few minutes to calm down. However, in the back of my mind, I'm constantly wondering....is my “sanity break” harmful for my child? 

Time to get educated!

I went to straight to the source, the American Academy of Pediatrics for answers.

This is what i found out...

Screen Time For Kids: 2 Years or Younger

If you are in a hurry...I'll sum it up....DON'T Do It!

WHY? Studies have shown that heavy screen time for kids younger than 2 years old can cause:

  • Expressive language delays: Children need to interact with adults to learn to speak. Screen time takes away from "talk time." Also, they don't have the cognitive ability to learn language from technology at this age. 
  • Attention problems in school: Children may develop attention issues. This may stem from play constantly being interrupted by TV. 
  • Sleep disturbances: TV before naps and bedtime may interrupt sleep. Something no parent wants to deal with especially after we have spent so much money on countless sleep aid books! Children also need sleep for cognitive development.

Note: Children younger than 2 years old do not have the cognitive ability needed "to learn" from TV.  We can safely toss all those "educational claims" from the media on baby apps and shows out the window!

Of course, as always, more research is needed. Even though the research is not 100% conclusive...it is enough to scare me!

Screen Time For Kids: 2 Years and Older

This is where it gets a little tricky! Some studies have shown some benefits while others have not. Hmm....

Benefits of High Quality Programs:

  • Improved language
  • Improved school readiness

However, at this time, I do not know what constitutes "high quality" or how much is enough or too much!

Harmful affects of too much screen time for kids:

  • Less Reading: Heavy screen time use can lead to less reading time. Reading with parents at this age IS CRUCIAL. I can’t emphasize this enough.
  • Sleep Interference: TV use at this age can delay falling asleep and shorten sleep time.
  • Not BETTER than play: Despite all the advertising, there is not one study that shows screen time for kids is more educational or better than creative play.

My Recommendations: Under 2 Years Old

Screen time is NOT recommended!

  1. Limit screen time:  I don't see the harmful affects of a few minutes here and there, but don't sit your little one in front a TV, computer, IPad, etc...
  2. TURN OFF THE TV IF NO ONE IS WATCHING: Having the TV on in the background will distract parents, limit parent-child interactions (which is so important for language development), and background TV may cause later attention issues for children.
  3. Don't buy baby DVDs or apps: They are a waste of money and possibly harmful. More money in our pockets, yeah!

For ideas of what to do instead of watching TV, check out baby activities and our baby store for toy inspiration. 

My Recommendations: Over 2 Years Old

It is unreasonable and almost impossible to swear off all technology devices these days, and there are some highly educational shows/apps.

So...what to do?!

  1. LIMIT SCREEN TIME: Shoot for 15 minutes or less per day.
  2. Earn screen time: To encourage good behavior and self-esteem, have your child earn 15 minutes of screen time by completing chores, cleaning up, etc....
  3. Make it a family event: Everyone sits down and watches or plays a game together. Talk about it after. Make it special.
  4. Limit background TV: Turn off the TV if no one is watching. Turn on music instead.
  5. Put away smartphones during play time: Children will learn screen time habits from their parents.
  6. Consider the quality: Find high quality TV shows, movies, or apps. Make sure it is educational.
  7. Read Instead: Check out my favorite toddler books to replace screen time for kids.

** I will compile a list of recommended apps and shows after I research and test them!**

Want ideas on alternatives to screen time: Check out toddler language activities and recommended toys  for inspiration!

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Bridget is an ASHA certified, practicing speech language pathologist. She is passionate about providing parents with information on child speech and language development as well as provide functional, easy activities to do at home! Parents have the power to make a real difference.

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Reference

  1. Media Use by Children Younger Than 2 Years. PEDIATRICS Vol. 128 No. 5. November 1, 2011. Accessed online on 8/13/2013.