Sunday, May 19, 2013

How much TV or screen time is too much for our children?

So.... the TV.


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.
But just like I don't want our TV on all the time, I also think it can be an excellent aid to teaching our children, and we might be missing out on teachable opportunities if we're never using a television, iPad, or other device.

(...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!!!

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13 comments:

  1. Fantastic post and great series!! I can't wait to read more! - In the Summer months it's a lot easier to get outside and not have the tv on as much... But Winter is where I struggle the most. It's so dark and depressing here that it's nice to have on background noise. But I'm hoping that this winter will be different because Abby will be older and can get out more.

    I'm going to email your blog link to a few of my mommy friends.. I know they'll find it just as interesting :)

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    1. Thank you Jessica! I agree - winter is tough. Especially this winter for us, because I was so pregnant or had a very new baby for ALL of it. :) I'm also hoping that next winter when both babes are a bit older (1 year old and almost 3 years old) we can get out more!

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  2. You are right about this, at least in our case. We do one hour of tv in the morning, to just do nothing as we wake up, then one hour in the evening. In the summer, we only do less than one hour bc my kids always want to be outside. I love having the tv off during the day bc I can hear what the kids are doing lol. We talk back and forth, and when I'm busy, they get quiet time. Many times, I hear them reading or taking care of the kids. I watch a lot of daytime tv, or I want to but with the kids, I just can't. The tv is so distracting to me. I could never pay any attention to them with it on lol. Since they are so young, we don't really do iPad time.... Except in the car. Or if they specifically ask.
    You're right, the tv is a babysitter for many. Many parents say that their kids don't watch and it's just on in the background. But for us, it is still distracting.

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    1. I meant taking care of their dolls.

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  3. I agree with a lot of what you've said here. Also, I totally agree with letting my son watch TV in the morning, because (gasp!) it's fun. Even if he doesn't learn. I love television, within reason, myself.

    Our biggest concern is to explain to him the difference between commercials and programming, as far as where and why those messages are being sent. I know he is still young, but since this is my husband's field of expertise, media literacy is important in our family.

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    1. I definitely feel like you guys are on the same page as DH & I. It's gotta be a balance between a little bit of TV and a lot of input. You guys are all over that :)

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  4. We average an hour or so, but once #2 is born, I guarantee this is going to spike for a while. I'm OK with it. Really I am. We will be much stricter once school starts. I've read a lot about school and screen time and I'm convinced that no screen time on school days is the way to go for us.

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    1. Yeah I'm pretty sure our screen time spiked right after Little Lady was born as well while we were transitioning and adjusting to two.

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  5. Such a great parental topic to talk about. Growing up we ALWAYS had the tv on, even if no one was watching it. I personally use the TV to , lack of better terms " babysit' while I get dinner ready. It's seriously the only time I don't feel bad putting the boob tube on and letting him zone out. we do however own just one TV and it's in our family room. I don't think we would ever allow our children to have a tv in their rooms to zone out to before bed. I think it would create a very bad habit. ON a side note, we only subscribe to Netflix with no junky commercials. Being a computer literacy teacher, I get the idea and importance to limit these items, but on the other hand computers at a young age have a lot to offer.

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    1. I love that Netflix has no commercials! That's coming up in a later post this week! :)

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  6. What do you think about daycare and TV? I visit daycares for my job and many I've been to recently have regular tv time. Some educational but some are just 2 year olds zoned out in front of spongebob. I find it concerning. My guess is that these kids (mostly low socio-economic status) are spending a significant amount of their home time in front of the tv as well...

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    1. Our former daycare situations used television in moderation as well, and the DCP was always with them while they were watching. I had no problem with the intermittent use, but she definitely used it sparingly. Anything more and I'd have had a problem with it. IMO I am paying for you to care for my child, not sit them down in front of a TV all day long.

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