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 children “smarter,” I started wondering ...how bad is screen time really? Is it helpful or harmful?
I’m not going to pretend my children NEVER play with my smartphone or watch Curious George 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 how to speak. Screen time takes away from "talk time."
- Attention problems in school - Children may develop attention issues. This may stem from play constantly being interrupted by the TV.
- Sleep disturbances - TV before naps and bedtime may interrupt sleep. This is something no parent wants to deal with. Children also need sleep for proper 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.
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 effects 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!
- Limit screen time: I don't see the harmful effects of a few minutes here and there, but don't sit your little one in front a TV, computer, IPad, etc...
- 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 may cause later attention issues for children.
- Don't buy baby DVDs or apps: They are a waste of money and possibly harmful.
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?!
- LIMIT SCREEN TIME: Shoot for 30 minutes or less per day.
- 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....
- Make it a family event: Everyone sits down and watches or plays a game together. Talk about it after. Make it special.
- Limit background TV: Turn off the TV if no one is watching. Turn on music instead.
- Put away smartphones during playtime: Children will learn screen time habits from their parents.
- Consider the quality: Find high-quality TV shows, movies, or apps. Make sure it is educational.
- Read Instead: Check out my favorite toddler books to replace screen time for kids.
Want ideas on alternatives to screen time: Check out toddler language activities and recommended toys for inspiration!
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. Follow Bridget at Facebook and Pinterest for more fun!
Author of child language development eBook series
- Media Use by Children Younger Than 2 Years. PEDIATRICS Vol. 128 No. 5. November 1, 2011. Accessed online on 8/13/2013.