You, Your Baby and Screen Time.
It is almost 2020. Screens are everywhere. There are even Ipad holders for strollers so babies can watch while out and about. It's a thing. Technology. It's wonderful and our world is going to continue to grow and expand with the advancement of new technologies. But, what is a parent to do with the enticement that screens bring?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 1 hour of screen time for children 2-5 and NO screen time under 18 months except for video chatting. They further recommend that for all children, parents should ensure the media is educational and should co watch to explain and describe what the children are seeing.
That may be a huge adjustment to what your child currently uses. As a speech language pathologist, I discuss this frequently with parents and I strongly support these recommendations. Children learn language and social communication by watching real life people interact and communicate. They pick up on nuances and emotions, learn how words are produced and what they mean and build attention span by interacting with people. Studies have shown the opposite has effect when young kids are exposed to screens.
Kids need to build their cognitive, language and social processing muscle. The best way to do this is through direct interaction with people. Screens are static and mostly visual. They offer no opportunity to engage and may in fact cause the developing brain to become lazy! The screen thinks for them, they never have to do a thing.
In addition, we as adults and parents need to monitor how and when we are using screens. When we are at the park with our children maybe this means we put the phone down and play, using language- both nonverbal and verbal expression- to play with our kids! At home when our children are playing, get down on the floor put the phone aside and engage with your children. Our screen time use directly influences what our children see as normal and impacts the amount of language rich interaction we provide to our kids.
Never feel guilty about what you may have gotten into the habit of doing in the past. That was then. Move forward now by replacing screen time with other activities like: playing on the floor with toys, blocks, puzzles, dolls etc., playing games like chase, tickles, jumping, hide and seek, coloring, reading a book, playing outside, sensory play with shaving cream, sand, paint, water etc and let your kids use their imagination. Being bored is ok! We were bored as kids and we turned out fine! Let kids think of fun games to play and explore their environment.
I have had many parents ask me about what to do instead of screens in places such as the grocery store, waiting rooms and other places where kids may have idle time. Those are important opportunities to build children's waiting muscles! Waiting is an important skill. Screens give us immediate responses and teach us that all actions have an immediate effect. But that is not true in the real world. Be prepared for these situations by bringing your childs backpack with a few favorite things; a few toys, a book, crayons, play dough or blocks. Bubbles are also a favorite toy that you can do with your child and every child loves. In the grocery store, let your child participate in the sensory experience of getting food. Hand all food to your child to touch, smell and see before putting it in the cart, label the food, talk about it and have your child participate in the process of shopping. This is great sensory exposure as well as a rich language modeling experience.
Lets break it down:
Too much screen time too soon can negatively impact a childs ability during this critical period (birth -3) to concentrate, attend and build a large vocabulary.
If you are watching something, choose educational media such as Sesame Street and watch with your children, explaining what they are seeing and make it interactive.
Nothing beats human interaction. Children gain so much from face to face interaction which is critical in building language, social cognition and attention.
Monitor YOUR screen time use. Kids respond to what we model as normal. Remember this is a critical phase in development and we don't want to miss out on this exciting time with our kids. Create memories by doing!
Be prepared when going out. Bring a few things that will occupy your child and can be interactive with you- bubbles, a few toys, blocks and a book.
Remember that was then, this is now. Move forward by modeling a healthy media diet and create opportunities for you and your child to engage through face to face interaction. Leave the screens for FaceTiming grandma!
For more information, check out this post:
What are some of your favorite ways to limit screen time with your kids? I'd love to hear your strategies!