Can Your Parental Screen Time Be Interfering with Your Child’s Development?

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Can Your Parental Screen Time Be Interfering with Your Child’s Development?


As therapists for young children 0-3 we used to always have parents ask us about how much TV a child should be watching. And, mind you, we still get this question. But in today’s technology driven world we rarely get asked how much iPad or iPhone time is too much…nor do parents consider their own perspective of “Do I pay more attention to my cell phone than I do to my own child?”

The AAP recommends parents prioritize creative, unplugged playtime for infants and toddlers. Some media can have educational value for children starting at around 18 months of age, but it’s critically important that this be high-quality programming, such as the content offered by Sesame Workshop and PBS.”

In 2016 AAP suggested that children ages 2-5 should have no more than 1 hour of screen time per day and children under age 18 months should have no screen time (the exception being video chatting). Screen time now includes TV, phones, tablets and computers.

In today’s day and age parents are finding it harder and harder to pull their toddlers away from fast paced, colorful TV shows, games and apps. On top of that, parents’ own time spent on Snapchat, Pinterest, Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and the like means that they are not interacting verbally or socially with their young children during their child’s critical stage for social, language, and cognitive development.

New studies indicate that parent’s and children’s screen time can and is affecting their development. While children enjoy and can learn through various educational TV programs and apps, limiting the usage time and ENGAGING WITH your child socially while they are learning is CRITICALLY IMPORTANT. By that we mean, when your child watches Sesame Street, you watch too, and comment on what is going on in the show. When your child is using an app on your iPad, you engage in the game with him, commenting on what he is doing “you matched two squares, that’s great!” so that these screen time activities are social & interactive learning experiences, not just passive screen time (such as handing your child your phone to keep her quiet in a restaurant, or having your child sit on the couch watching an hour long TV show while you’re in the kitchen cooking dinner). Sure there are times, when you NEED to placate your child or get something done, that’s reality, but do try to keep tabs on how often this is occurring. If it’s happening daily or your toddler is engaging in upwards of 1-2 hours of passive screen time per day, it’s too much!

This recent study found that “Each additional 30 minutes of hand-held screen time was linked to a 49 percent increased risk in expressive speech delay.” Birth to three is considered the “critical period” for a child’s brain development and too much screen time during this time can have lasting negative consequences according to Psychology Today.

It is the way of the world now, everywhere you go people are staring at their mobile devices. In restaurants, at the zoo, at the beach, while walking their babies in the park. But it doesn’t have to be this way. You are still ultimately in control of your screen time and your child’s. One study indicated that many parent’s spend as much as 9 hours per day glued to their phones and/or tablets. That makes you a pretty poor role model for your own kids. Isn’t it time to re-think your screen time and spend more quality time socializing with your family? Start today by making some house rules about no screen time at meals, no screen time on Saturday’s…be a good role model! And don’t forget the importance of face to face and hands on PLAY for your children 0-3 years!