One of the many “hot topics” in parenthood these days. And I know by reading the title, half of you are probably rolling your eyes muttering “oh brother” while the other half are cheering saying “preach it sister!” I just ask if you are in the first camp to
hear read me out.
So why did I decide to go screen-free with my children? As an early childhood educator, I learned about the importance of parental participation in your child’s life, and in particular a young child’s life. Did you know that the first five years are the most important in terms of language development? During this time the brain is developing and making connections between nerve cells. A lack of stimulation during this time could slow the process, or in extreme circumstances make becoming fluent in a language impossible (like this case of Genie, a child who endured major child abuse). In a more recent study, a link was found between time using a handheld screen, and expressive language delay. While correlation doesn’t equal causation, it is still some food for thought.
Some argue that apps and DVDs can help teach a child new words. This study that was done showing that babies who watched an “educational DVD” marketed at infants, did not, in fact learn more than the control group. I also argue there is way more to language and just learning to speak. Recognizing nonverbal cues, emotions, or how to take turns are important skills to learn, and ones that are not easily taught from a screen.
The recommendations of screen time by the AAP is as follows:
~ Children 18 months and younger: avoid screen time, unless it is video chatting
~ Children 18-24 months: high-quality programming
~ 2-5-year-old: 1 hour of high-quality programming, parents should co-view
~ 6 and older: place consistent time limits on screen time, and make sure it doesn’t take place of sleep, physical activity, or other activities that are important to a child’s growth.
Because of my view of screen time, my phone and I-pad have no children’s’ apps on them. I repeat, no. children’s. apps. I’ve made it 4.5 years with no children’s apps, and have no desire to change that. I love that I don’t have to argue with my kids about giving me my phone back or turning off the Ipad. And honestly, it hasn’t been a huge deal.
Maybe it’s because they don’t know any different but we can go through our day to day life fine without a screen. When we head Up North (about a 3-4 hour drive) we stay screen free. Books, crayons, toys from the dollar store all serve as entertainment (and if I’m lucky, a nap or two helps pass the time). At the grocery store? We point out colors we see, talk about the letters we hear in the food that we are buying, and talk to all. the. employees. Out to eat? I always have crayons, paper, and a few books in my bag which keeps kids entertained. A game of I Spy works great to keep kids entertained as well. Overall I would rather my girls use their imagination playing with their toys, create a piece of artwork, or read a book. Part of me feels like all this technology is taking away the opportunity for kids to just be kids, and that isn’t something I want for my children.