As families utilize the New Year to reassess family rules and establish resolutions for the entire family inevitably the topic of technology use comes up. We have compiled a series of resources to help inform parents as they establish guidelines that work best for their family.
The American Academy of Pediatrics outlines recommendations for families, including the establishment of "screen-free" zones and complete avoidance of television and entertainment media for infants and children under the age of two. We realize the recommendation of no television or entertainment media for infants and children under two might seem severe; however, when you take into account the amount of language and cognitive development that unfolds during this period, you can see why this recommendation exists.
Research into toddler technology use has begun to distinguish the difference between active and passive screen time. Skyping or FaceTime in some research has been seen as active screen time and been proven to help babies learn. The live communication (or active screen time) appears to have a different affect on children versus watching television or video (passive screen time) because of the social interaction.
You may be asking yourself, "what about educational television, like Dora or Blues Clues?" Our answer is this, educational television is considered a learning opportunity in part because some producers have tried to utilize the concept of the pause, where a question is asked by the character on screen and there is a pause (wait time) for the child to answer. This effort does make the screen time less passive to a degree, but it is still very far from a real interaction. Two things to consider; 1) toddlers have difficulty understanding the difference between a person on television and a real person, and 2) the television character will not moderate your child's response ("yes, that is correct" or "can you tell me why you think that?").
There are a number of wonderful educational apps available and resources such as Common Sense Media where you can gather insight by age, topic, and skill. Like television, the difficulty with apps comes in how toddlers are moderated during the activity. Due to developing motor and cognitive skill sets, toddlers should spend time learning about apps and engaging with them in the presence of an adult. Toddlers are notoriously impulsive and will tap the screen without purpose or intension, diminishing the purposefulness of the screen time.
Technology offers a tremendous amount in terms of communication and learning and our children are being raised in a very different environment than us parents. The desire to do what is best for our children can make the decision on screen time scary and even a bit overwhelming; however, like any parenting decision, focus on the purpose and quality of the activity/interaction. Remember to be age appropriate and, as with everything, moderation is key.
ABOUT CHRISSY K
I am mom to three boys (one with several life-threatening food allergies) who will never own too many picture books or create Pinterest-worthy snacks. Simply Chrissy K is a place to find helpful tips on parenting that stem from my work with families as an educational consultant and parenting coach.
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