• At what age do we let the baby start to play with the smart phone?
• Are computerized learning devices really effective learning tools?
• Should my child have their own cell phone or tablet?
• What about e-books?
The added complication is that most parents of today are very “attached” to their own media devices, and find it challenging to limit their own screen time. Northwestern University researchers said they have found that the majority of American parents today are unconcerned about their child’s media use. They also have found that parents have adopted different parenting styles related to media. (Read more at http://www.redorbit.com/news/health/1112866073/children-s-tv-time-no-concern-for-modern-parents-060513/#ey75s5kdKG7iwj6T.99)
Here are some of the facts:
• children ages 8 to 18 spent an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes a day consuming media for
fun, including TV, music, video games and other content (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2009).
• 17% of children 8 and younger use mobile devices daily, up from 8% in 2011
• 40% of children under 2 have used a mobile device, a jump from 10% in 2011 (Common
Doctors and researchers are very concerned about what effects so much use of electronic media and television are having on children’s rapidly developing brains and physical health. Research indicates that over-exposure has many detrimental effects. It negatively impacts:
• attention span and concentration
• the development of language and thinking
• what children do and how they feel
• the success they experience at school
• appetite control
• vulnerability to childhood obesity
• reading scores
• vulnerability to Attention Deficit Disorder and depression
• long-term memory
The problem is we don’t know the full extent of the long-term effects and consequences so much exposure to screen time will have, and what we do know does not look good.
For these reasons paediatricians strongly recommend that:
• children under 2 not be exposed to TV, computers or mobile technology at all. At that age, they say, there is no benefit and time spent doing that takes away from important physical activities like crawling, walking, climbing and exploring their environment.
• Preschoolers from 2-5 years of age should be limited to one hour of quality educational screen time each day (Canadian Pediatric Society).
• School-aged kids (6-11 years), should be limited to less than two hours of entertainment-based screen time per day, and shouldn't have TVs or Internet access in their bedrooms. Studies show that even one to two hours of daily television viewing by school-aged children has a significant harmful effect on academic performance, especially reading. (Canadian Paediatric
Technology, though, can influence our lives in many positive ways, such as build skills, educate, connect and entertain us. And love it or hate it, computers and “screen” technology are here to stay and will likely be an ever increasing part of our lives from now on. In a very short period of time they have revolutionized how we interact, think, work, learn and function in our daily lives. This degree and speed of change has not been seen since the Industrial Revolution. We must live with this technology and we must learn to minimize any negative effects it will have on our children.
So what are the parents of today to do? How can they effectively manage the pervasiveness and seeming “indispensability” of digital media, with what is best for their children?
Lisa Guernsey, journalist, mom, and director of the Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation, may have some answers to offer. As a parent she was concerned by what she had been told about the effects of digital media and TV on her children, but was also realistic about life and parenting in the “digital age.” She has candidly reported that with her first child she was adamant that there would be no TV before aged two, yet admits that if she had had an iPad when her second child was born, she would have gladly plunked her eighteen-month-old down in front of it while she nursed and tended her newborn.
Ms. Guernsey has spent 15 years writing about “where digital media and early childhood meet” and she did a lot of digging, researching and questioning assumptions about the dilemma faced by today’s parents. Her book, Screen Time: How Electronic Media-From Baby Videos to Educational Software-Affects Your Young Child has a lot of interesting information to share with today’s parents. In it she concludes that instead of worrying endlessly about the amount of time children spend with media, that new parents should focus on “the three C’s”:
• Content (what is being watched);
• Context (how it’s being watched - alone or with someone to talk to about it versus used as a
• the needs of the individual child.
She goes on to say that it’s important not to replace human interaction and social relationships with media. For example, to make doing household tasks easier, you could set up a routine with your child where you spend 15-20 minutes playing with her, and then 15-20 minutes performing your chores, when the child might watch educational programming. That way, your child has great relationship-building and language-developing interactions with you, and limited, quality media time.
For more details and information on Ms.Guernsey’s findings please go to: http://families.naeyc.org/learning-and-development/music-math-more/how-true-are-our-assumptions-about-screen-time
Another source of information for today’s “digital” parents has tackled such questions as:
• How long should I let my child play on my phone or tablet each day?
• Lots of apps are described as educational. Are they really and how do we know?
• How do e-readers compare to traditional books?
• This technology is here to stay, so how can I make the best of it?
• How young is too young for playing on my phone or tablet?
Find their suggested answers at:
So to be practical about minimizing the negative effect of media on your child, here are some strategies that might help:
• Keep a small “activity bag” in your purse that you can pull out at appointments, or coffee
dates, when your child is along, so your child has something to do instead of play with your
phone. Use this time to interact with your child.
• Have a “media free” meal time policy to encourage talk and interaction with your children.
• Frame screen time as a privilege, to be earned, not a right.
• Keep media devices (cell phones, laptops or TVs) out of your child’s bedroom. This allows you to put limits on screen time, and to monitor it in order to keep your children safe. There are a lot of dangers online and no child should be allowed unsupervised access to the Internet. If you would like to learn more about this, consider taking an Internet Safety for Parents Program in your community or visit http://www.internetsafety101.org/dangers.htm. Visit cbal.org for literacy programs in your community.
Submitted by Linda Steward, CBAL