No matter where you look on the internet, you can find pretty stringent guidelines about when your children should be allowed to watch television and exactly how much they should be allowed to view. Per the AAP, children under the age of two should be allowed no screen time whatsoever. Beyond the age of two, children should be allowed no more than 1-2 hours of screen time per day. And - by screen time - they mean the TV, the iPad, your smart phone, or any other type of media your child may be viewing or using to play.
As a speech pathologist, I have some thoughts and feelings about this.
Surprising? Probably not.
To be totally blunt - I think it's a great concept. I completely understand where the recommendation comes from and why they agreed on these specific guidelines. Let's delve into that piece first before we talk about the one small downside I see to this recommendation and stance.
Early on in child development, the more input you can give your child, (in most cases) the better. Studies have shown that increased use of television in homes with small children decreased speech, in short. Findings have shown that while a television was on in the background, the number of utterances (how many times the parent spoke to their child) and the mean length of utterance (the number of words exchanged) both decreased when compared to a parent and child in a room without a television playing.
If a television is on all the time, this can have serious consequences to a child's development. The more they are exposed to speech, language, and social interactions - the better it is for their cognitive development. During the first few years where speech, language, and cognition develop in a series of slow crawls and big booms, the amount and type of interaction they have with their main caregivers molds them and teaches them how to grow. If you ever look at a speech pathologist's language delay handouts or packets to parents for homework, you can see that the AAP's stance fits well within what we recommend to further speech and language development. A few of the recommendations we give parents of children with speech and language delays are to limit television time, spend a specified amount of time per day or week engaged in play with the child while enriching their language environment, and talking through your daily routines on a level that fits their current level of development - to name just a few.
All of those recommendations are to increase speech and - again - give the child a highly enriched language environment from which to learn. These recommendations are in stark contrast to sitting your child in front of a television and letting them zone out all day long. That doesn't provide any real interaction with other human beings and in a lot of cases doesn't teach them anything that they can apply or carry over to real life.
It's just a time filler.
So then we travel a few years down the line past the toddler age and into young childhood, to where the increase in television time can lead to, "attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity," per the AAP. Those aren't likely goals you'd ever want to accomplish for your older child either.
For all of those above reasons, I totally agree with the AAP. There are many parents and families who rely much too heavily on a television to parent their children, and if that recommendation helps even just a few of these families to limit their screen time, then it is a successful venture.
However, I feel like it makes the rest of the parents who already use media sensibly with their children get a little bit out of control at times. Don't deny it, you know that sanctimommy whose child has never seen a television program! In the world of mommy wars and competition to make your child the best, brightest, and smartest - forbidding the "dangerous" screen time tends to be the other extreme I see many parents going to these days.
|Little Man watching TV on a sick day.|
(...Not to mention decreasing their chances to learn the very technologies that drive many of our jobs and the workforce our children will likely enter in the future.)
That said, I completely believe that as a parent and within your family unit, it's really important to find a spot where you are comfortable with the amount of your screen time. This may mean little to no screen time, or it may mean a bit more screen time with which I would personally be comfortable. Your family is not my family and you are not me, and what works for me may not work for you, plain and simple. And I totally understand that and pass no judgement.
But before you make the choice about your child's screen time, I want to chat about it just a bit more.
If you're a new parent wondering how to address screen time as your child becomes older or even a seasoned parent wanting to address the level of screen time used in your home, then this week's posts are for you. I'll be spending the entire week talking about topics such as: the logistics of our personal screen time at the TNO household, what television shows I recommend as a speech pathologist, what television shows I don't recommend, how to use the television to teach your children, and I even have a little Tip & Trick post lined up relating to the same theme.
Head on back to the blog this week to check out all of that and more, and if you find it to be helpful, please share these posts via Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest!!!