Kids Connection – ​TV, no TV: Finding A Balance

Kids Connection Article​
January 24, 2014

TV, no TV:  Finding A Balance

According to the Journal of Pediatrics, preschoolers spend a staggering 32 hours a week on screen time, and older kids spend even more. The American Academy of Pediatrics, The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity, and others recommend discouraging any screen time for children under the age of two, and less than two hours a day of educational programming for older children.  Screen time for children under 3 is linked to irregular sleep patterns and children with 2 or more hours of daily screen time are more likely to have increased psychological difficulties, including hyperactivity, emotional and conduct problems and difficulty with peers (Pediatrics).

The interesting thing is that we’re actually born with our brains not fully formed. In fact, the newborn brain triples in size in the first two years of life, and it does that through “serve and return” interaction between the child and significant adults in his life.

For example, young children “serve” by gazing and focusing on a specific object, and adults “return” this attentive behavior by saying and repeating the name of the object. In due time the child will make connections in her brain which will enable her to instantaneously recall the name of the object. The American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communication and Media states there is no credible evidence that any type of screen time is beneficial to babies and toddlers and some evidence that it may be harmful. For babies 8 to 16 months, watching baby videos is associated with slower language development. Regardless of content, excessive screen time changes children’s fundamental connection to the world by depriving them of hands-on creative play—the foundation of learning, creativity, constructive problem solving, and the capacity to wrestle with life to make it meaningful.

Television is the medium children continue to use most frequently and screen time also includes cell phones featuring child-targeted apps, mp3 players, iPads, and other hand-held devices. Finding a balance using screen time requires thoughtfulness and adaptation. It is a process to figure out what works for your family.  Consider brainstorming with your kids about what they can do instead of watching TV or playing video games. Write down the suggestions. Have each family member write or draw about one screen-free activity. Make a book of the pictures or hang them on the refrigerator.  Your efforts are worthwhile.

Based on your family brainstorming session of screen free ideas and knowing the facts, you can develop or adapt a thoughtful plan for screen time that is well-suited to your family.  After a week or two talk about how you feel, what all of you have accomplished, and what aspects of limiting screen time you would like to keep going. Less screen time allows more time for creative and active play time, more fun, more learning and better health. For more information on limiting screen time visit screenfree.org or commercialfreechildhood.org

Lorraine Redmond writes for Chaffee County Early Childhood Council.  For more tips on raising young children visit the Council’s website at www.ccecc.org or call Chaffee County Early Childhood Council at 221-5114.