I cannot think of a topic off the top of my head that’s more talked about right now than this one regarding raising small children. A quick google search turns up a mile-long list of professional articles and blogs with differing opinions about how much screen time children should have and all of the potentially harmful effects this could lead to down the road.
Unfortunately, this is fairly unchartered territory and nobody really knows 100% what effects technology will have on this new generation as they grow. As if new parents didn’t question their decision-making enough, we now have this dilemma to navigate too. Three cheers for raising little ones in 2016!
A couple of months ago I was chatting with Hadley’s PAT teacher who has three young boys, and I asked her for her professional and her motherly opinion regarding this topic: How much is too much? Her simple answer was profoundly helpful.
She explained that technology should be considered effortless entertainment and nothing else. She continued to add that she’s met many parents who justify letting their children play on tablets and watch Sesame Street because they claim it’s educational and helping them learn. She said that while many shows and games do slip in educational opportunities, there are no lessons that children will learn from tablets or the TV that they can’t learn otherwise faster and perhaps stronger. Sure, some games and shows may focus on counting to 10 or teaching colors, but parents could also just as easily slip these lessons into every day things like walking up and down the stairs, picking out clothing, etc.
In a nutshell, she advised that technology should never be justified as anything but effortless entertainment. If you’re okay with your child being entertained by the TV or tablet for 10 hours straight (for example: on a road trip) than that’s one’s choice, but don’t stick them in front of a TV for educational purposes.
Her final note was that each family needs to decide how much time they can give their child(ren) each day that’s devoted to physical activity, individual exploration/play time, entertainment, and education. In her opinion, she believes there should realistically be a healthy combination of all of the aforementioned.
How this advice has helped my family
Some days Hadley watches one episode on Disney Jr. and other days she may watch a total of six episodes (but usually never in a row). It all depends on her mood, my mood, and whatever else is going on in our lives that day. I don’t apologize for using the TV as a “babysitter” occasionally (I kind of hate when people use this phrase anyway). Especially with Jamie overseas, sometimes I just need to get things done around the house while knowing she’s content on the couch. The PAT teacher’s advice has helped me shed “mom guilt” regarding this issue and helped me decide how much is too much.
Yesterday morning we woke up and she watched TV from 8-9 while I played on my phone and responded to emails. She was entertained and so was I. At 9 I turned the TV off, let her fuss for a hot minute, and then watched as she walked over to sit on the floor with her toys for the next hour. I know that she needs that individual play time for her development; She’s two. We had a variety of things going on yesterday outside of the house, so that was all the TV time she had until around 7 p.m. when I let her watch 30 minutes worth of a movie on her Kindle. These were two periods of the day where she was able to relax and be entertained, and I didn’t feel guilty about it one bit. 🙂
Maybe I’m opening up a big can of worms here, but what’re your thoughts about this topic? How do you handle screen time in your household?
PS: In July I had the chance to attend a Q&A session with Randi Zuckerberg, and she weighed in regarding children and screen time. Considering her brother changed the world with social media, I perked up when this question was asked. I’ll be back with her response tomorrow.