Monday, July 16, 2012

No Screen Time Under Two

We've got two computer scientists in our three-person family.  Would it surprise you that our daughter, currently seven months old, is not allowed to watch any TV, videos or games, and does not play with our iPhones at all?

Yup, that's right. We're actually trying to follow the 'no screen time before 2' advice.

Before I go any further, I would like to emphasize that I am not judging any family that allows their babies to watch TV (or play games, or whatever) for any length of time.  This post is about exploring our attempt at avoiding it because doing so felt right for us.  I know there are many who find screen time tremendously helpful and/or educational!

This PBS article does a good job of summarizing the research related to television and children under 3.  It starts with some startling statistics that show how many infants and toddlers are exposed to television despite warnings against it (I haven't found anyone I know that is doing what we are).  But it then points out that there has been surprisingly little research done into the actual effects of TV.  Unsurprisingly, research does show that the role of a caregiver in watching programs is even more important than the content itself.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a statement in 1999 that included this:
Pediatricians should urge parents to avoid television viewing for children under the age of 2 years. Although certain television programs may be promoted to this age group, research on early brain development shows that babies and toddlers have a critical need for direct interactions with parents and other significant care givers (eg, child care providers) for healthy brain growth and the development of appropriate social, emotional, and cognitive skills. Therefore, exposing such young children to television programs should be discouraged.
In 2011, the AAP released a more modern statement.  As discussed in The New York Times:
The recommendation, announced at the group’s annual convention in Boston, is less stringent than its first such warning, in 1999, which called on parents of young children to all but ban television watching for children under 2 and to fill out a “media history” for doctor’s office visits. But it also makes clear that there is no such thing as an educational program for such young children, and that leaving the TV on as background noise, as many households do, distracts both children and adults.
Interestingly, the less strict recommendations were made because many people thought the all-out ban was all but impossible to follow:
The recommendations are an attempt to be more realistic, given that, between TVs, computers, iPads and smartphones, households may have 10 or more screens. 
We have multiple devices in our house (though probably not 10), but we have an advantage.  We don't watch TV, and though we really enjoy playing games and watching movies, we don't have much opportunity for it these days.  Thus, for us, an all-out ban is feasible.

And that's what we're going for: an all-out ban on screen time.  My only exception is that I don't mind if she sees me browsing or emailing, so long as there are no videos on the screen.  Our choice is validated anytime she does see a video accidentally: she turns into a zombie and just stares at it.  If a TV is on nearby, you can hardly stop her from turning her head around toward it.  That makes me uncomfortable.

I'm not sure if we'll last all the way until 2, but we'll do our best.  And when the time comes, I have to admit that I am very much looking forward to playing some fun kid-friendly Kinect games.


Angela @ Cottage Magpie said...

So nice to hear of another "techie" family that's for banning media for kids (or at least, for babies). My husband and I both work from home, online, and yet, we choose not to have a media presence in our lives, especially for our kids. Our oldest did watch videos when he was 3-4yo, and I regret it now. Our kids are so much calmer and inventive with their imaginations now that we have a ban on electronics! We don't own a TV, we watch on laptop after the kids are in bed. We also don't have smart phones. We do each have 2 computers in our offices, but the kids aren't with us when we work. I know in this day and age it seems very primitive or strict, and every family is going to be different, but for US, I can tell when my kids watch and I don't like how it affects their behavior. So it works for us!!

Gail Carmichael said...

Cool! You are doing even better than us. Inspiring! :)

Shrutarshi Basu said...

I really like the idea of not having screens -- it forces parents to actually be parents. Personally I think using the TV as a babysitter is a really big problem. My kids (if/when I have them) are growing up with crayons and Lego and music and getting muddy and dirty at least once a week.

Gail Carmichael said...

Basu: Many people say that ahead of time but most end up going back on it. They aren't using it as a babysitter - sometimes two minutes watching a video is the only thing that will calm their baby down. That's why I don't judge those that do allow some screen time - it's not as simple as it sounds!

Of course, having said that, if no screen time turns out to be what is important to you as a parent like it is for us, you can see that it is possible. You kind of have to pick and choose where you fight your battles. ;)

Lazza said...

Your approach is quite interesting, probably I will consider it if and when I'll become father. :)
But I would like to add one thing: avoid the Kinect. If you don't want her to be dependent on screens when she's young, probably you also don't want her to be dependent on Microsoft for her entire life. ;)

Breezy Kimerly said...

I'd love to see studies on stuff like BrillBaby where parents are at least half of the experience.

I agree that T.Vs as a babysitter is awful, but how is it as a teaching tool?

I'm so torn about this.

My daughters are 3 mo old and a 7 yr old.

. . . My 7 yr old was exposed to more screen time and shows than I would have liked, however, she is doing multiplication, (unheard of in her class) she's brilliant at computer programing (especially for a 7 yr old) and has a lot of friends.
I use My Little Ponies when she's misbehaving as role models.
"Pinky Pie is funny without being annoying. What would she do?"

I'm really not sure where I stand for my 3 mo old. So far we've been avoiding screen time totally, but I'd love to do BrillBaby.

Gail Carmichael said...

Honestly, nothing in moderation and used responsibly can be all that bad! :) We just happened to decide it was easier to go all or nothing, but if you had one thing you felt would be beneficial I'm sure it's fine to go for it! :)

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