It seems the challenge of limiting screen time is a growing concern for parents. With TV, computers, tablets and smart phones, screens seem available to our children at every turn. When a child is complaining loudly in a restaurant or crying in a waiting room, it can be tempting and so easy to pass them a screen to quiet them down. The difficulty is the little bit of research available about screen time and very young children is negative and for older children it’s questionable at best.
The American Academy of Pediatrics continues to suggest that there be no screen time for children under two years old, and a one to two hour maximum for older children. Other researchers, including Zero to Three, suggest less is better with a 30 minute daily limit for two to three years old, and an hour daily limit for older children.
Part of the reason for these screentime limits is to leave more time for other more valuable activities. When screen time is given to children just to quiet them down, parents are missing a golden opportunity to teach the child to calm themselves. They are missing a chance to build empathy by pointing out the annoyed people around them. Screen time as a passive activity is time children could be playing, having conversations, climbing trees, coloring or reading books.
Part of the reason is the growing research that supports links between higher rates of viewing with childhood obesity, attention span concerns and later depression.
My children watch tv and as they are getting older they have their own phones. The idea is to make sure you educate yourself as a parent and make the decisions that fit your family. For more information on this topic, read Screen Time: How Electronic Media – from Baby Videos to Educational Software – Affects Young Children by Guernsey.