Screen time for toddlers has always been a hot topic. Lately I’ve seen a lot of strong opinions (going both directions) on Facebook in response to a recent Huffington Post article.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants under the age of 2 should have absolutely no exposure to technology. As a parent who heavily monitors my kids’ screen time, I see their point – I do. But my toddler is currently having a love affair with Elmo and I have to be honest, some days that saves me.
Technology has a big role in my home. I work from home and also homeschool my kids. Today’s kids have so many great options for technology-related educational tools – we aren’t about to give up our screen time completely.
There are some definite negatives that come along with technology, so it’s important to be aware of those and, as with anything else in life, moderation is key.
Be Picky About Technology
There are a lot of options when it comes to technology for kids. We got rid of our satellite TV years ago and now use only Netflix. That lets us heavily monitor what the kids watch and makes time away from the screen more appealing. There are several great shows available for toddlers and older kids to watch in moderation, unless your toddler is only interested in watching Elmo then everything else is out.
When we are out and about, technology can play a role in keeping my toddler entertained. We used videos on the iPad during our last road trip to keep my toddler happy in the car (again, ONLY Elmo would do). Since she doesn’t generally have much screen time I felt okay using it to keep her occupied on what would have otherwise been a very boring trip for her.
Use Technology with a Purpose
I used to keep the TV on for background noise until I realized how distracting it was and how the brain adjusts to the extra noise. If we have screens on in our house now, there’s a reason for it – even if sometimes that purpose is just to calm my toddler down for a few minutes so I can get something done.
I’m a huge fan of using technology in education. I’ve found some great apps that teach older toddlers and preschoolers in a fun way that I’ve taken advantage of when we’ve had down time at the dr. office or while running errands. Again, since the majority of her week is spent technology-free, I don’t feel too guilty using it with a purpose when it’s useful.
Set Heavy Limits
In our home, we really try and emphasize balance in all things. That means that there is no way my kids are going to sit in front of the TV for hours on end no matter how educational the show is.
They know this.
My older kids have started to self-monitor their own screen time. They’ve been known to shut off the computer after working on a project for 30 minutes or so and tell me “I think it’s time to get some fresh air. I’m going to go ride my bike now”.
I love that they are aware of the need to moderate their screen time and I attribute that largely to the fact that while I haven’t denied them access to technology I have tried to teach them to limit things.
My toddler obviously isn’t able to set her own limits yet so I set them for her. When we do use technology it’s for very short periods of time – 15 minutes of a TV show, 5 minutes playing on my iPad while we wait. She gets a taste of things but it doesn’t dominate her day.
What’s your stance on kids and technology? Does your toddler have zero screen time or short access from time to time?