How much TV and Computer Time is Okay for My Child?
Sometimes, parents really don’t want to know the correct answer. We live in a society where, in the average home, 10 viewing screens may be running at the same time. I am talking about TVs, computers, iPads, smart phones, videos, hand held computer games, electronic screen toys and gadgets. Count what you have in your own home – you may be surprised. So, I am going to tell you what the latest research recommends, and you decide what can work for you and your family.
In 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended no screen time – TV or computer- for children under two years of age. According an article published last week in the New York Times, the AAP has reviewed the policy and is making the new policy less restrictive because of resistance from parents, the entertainment industry and even pediatricians. After the Academy’s revised recommendation was announced, the video industry said parents, not professional organizations, were the best judges.
My personal feeling is that research was for the benefit of the child and not for the benefit of parents, industry and pediatric office visits. So, let’s look at some statistics. You “reap what you sow” is so true for a child’s language development. You are your child’s best teacher, and I want you to be informed so you can make the best decisions. Here are the facts:
- Two-thirds of fourth grade children are not reading at their grade level in thiscountry as reported by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 2007. Reading disabilities have increased by 200 percent since 1977. A child’s language is directly related to his reading ability.
- Research makes it clear that young children learn and develop speech/language skills from interactions with people and things – not from situations appearing on video screens. Infants and toddlers learn from using all five senses (seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and tasting/talking), not from looking at a box with images and adult language.
- “Some learning can take place from media for school-age children,” says Georgene Troseth, a psychologist at Vanderbilt University in this week’s New York Times article, “but it’s a lot lower, and it takes a lot longer.” Unlike school-age children, infants and toddlers, “just have no idea what’s going on” no matter how well done a video is.
- The new AAP recommendation warns parents against putting a TV in a very young child’s room. It cautions parents to be mindful of how much their child views media, while urging them to monitor how much time the TV is on in the background in their homes (which distracts both children and adults).
- The AAP estimates that for every hour a child under two spends in front of a screen, he or she spends 50 minutes less interacting with a parent, and about 10 percent less time in creative play.
- I was a working parent, and I know how important a hot shower or 30 minutes of “me time” can be in order to reenergize the brain and your attitude. Setting your child in front of an educational TV show for 30 minutes to maintain your sanity will be okay if you talk about what the child viewed. Please check out the research that the Mayo Clinic performed on Baby Einstein. It is an eye-opener, and you need to know the facts.
If you need some hands-on and creative ideas on how to stimulate your children without the use of electronic devices, please refer to My Baby Compass, Birth to Two, Two to Four, or Four to Seven.
– Kathy Gruhn, MA CCC-SLP, author of My Baby Compass series