Sunday, July 21, 2013

Toddlers and Screen Time

Up until a few months ago, I could not get A to watch anything for more than 3 minutes. It's not like I was encouraging him to veg out in front of the television, but I remember those long newborn nursing sessions with baby E, when the TV would have come in handy.

Fast forward a few months, and A now loves all things videos - TV, iPhone, iPad -he'll take whatever he can get. I find myself worrying that he may be getting too much screen time, and working to set limits that work for our family. My biggest concern about screen time is that it takes away precious time from playing. I believe that toddlers learn and develop most through active play and meaningful interactions, so I do not want to be taking too much time away from that. 

Hard at work learning the rules of Baseball while visiting family

I think there is a time and a place for screen time, and I am not ashamed to say that I actually depend on it at certain times of the day. Big brother A's willingness to watch a few minutes of Mickey Mouse while I nurse in the other room, has quite possibly saved my nursing relationship. I don't know what they did before TV, but I have not found any other way to get my toddler to let me leave the room for more than a minute or two.

The key in our house is to set limits and stick to them. Here is what is working for us right now:

  • The TV is not in our main living space. A does not see it during the normal course of the day, so he does not ask for it. He generally watches one show in the morning while getting dressed, and one show in the evening after he is in his pajamas. 
  • iPhone is strictly for nursing time only. I do pull out the phone once in a while during the day for a quick YouTube video, but he is only allowed to "man" the phone when I am nursing. It is scary how quickly he has learned to navigate different games and apps. 

  • I try very hard not to veer from our screen time limits. If A senses that I am relaxing the boundaries, he will naturally start testing the limits of how much he can watch or play games. I try to think long and hard before I let him have screen time at an non-routine time. 
Even though he is willing to watch TV for longer at this age, as soon as I ask him to turn it off, he is usually more than willing, and happy to go play with his toys/go outside/etc. I definitely sense the slippery slope that is screen time and toddlers, but with proper limits, a little bit goes a long way. I feel kind of guilty, because baby E has been getting some screen time too...I guess that's what happens when you're the second child. 

On a related note, there are some great shows out there for this age set. Some of A's favorites are Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Super Why, and Thomas. I don't count on the TV to teach him anything, but sometimes it's an added benefit! 

 What is your approach to screen time?

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