Jennifer is a former microbiologist turned mom, writer, and pet sitter. Jennifer, along with her husband, three boys (plus a menagerie of pets) live in North Carolina. She has written for websites including Scary Mommy, Pregnant Chicken, BabyGaga, Her View From Home.
Why I Allow My Toddler to Have Screen Time
Screen time is defined as any time spent in front of a screen. This Includes television, tablets, computers, smart phones and video games. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends less than an hour per day of screen time for children between the ages of two and five. They recommend high quality, educational programming that the parent will then view with the child and discuss, helping them understand what is going on in the program and how it relates to the real world.
Ok. Who on earth has time for that? Like many moms, I’ve felt the guilt of letting my toddlers watch too much television. Now… I grew up with unlimited TV privileges and I turned out fine. Right?
The question has become, what are you letting your kids watch? The AAP has it right (they probably have it right all the time but let’s be realistic) when they say that it’s the quality of the programming that matters. While I don’t have time to watch every program alongside my toddlers, I do know that they are watching age appropriate programming and much of it is educational as well. PBS is a great resource for educational programming for young kids.
They don’t call it the boob tube for nothing, amiright? Actually, you and I are wrong. There is a plethora of educational programming for preschool children available nowadays.
Between regular, old school satellite or cable television, Netflix, Hulu and YouTube Kids there are more options than ever for your kid to find educational programming. Sesame Street is still producing quality content and with their celebrity guests, there might be a little in it for you too.
Educational programming for preschool kids will introduce color recognition, counting, shapes and the alphabet. The shows also include themes like friendship, helping others, and relationships, encourage positive racial attitudes, and promote early language development.
That being said, the children learn from what they watch, so if they are watching violent cartoons or shows with slapstick humor, that is what they will take away from it. I feel that monitoring what they watch is more important than limiting them to an hour or less per day. Here are some of our favorite educational programs:
- Sesame Street
- Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood
- Word Party
- Dave and Ava (you tube)
- Bubble Guppies
In the past ten years tablet use has risen exponentially. In 2011 it was reported that 8 percent of children under 8 had tablets in the home in the United States. By 2013 that number had risen to 40 percent.
There is a multitude of apps designed for learning. Interactive apps that require response from the child and/or parent have shown to be the most conducive to learning. Children can learn letters, numbers, phonics and even word recognition and early reading from such programs. There is evidence that when the programs are co-viewed with a parent or other adult, the learning is that much more effective. Here are some education apps I enjoy watching with my kids:
- Elmo Loves 123’s
- Fish School HD
- Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
- Happy Valley Friends
- Farm 123 StoryToys Jr.
There is no shortage of video games that are inappropriate for children. As many as there are that are inappropriate however, there are games that are geared for young children and educational. Video games are interactive by design and, if high quality and educational, allow children to learn even more readily than television.
Wii, Xbox, Playstation and even handheld devices are all platforms in which you can find educational gaming choices. There are a number of games that encourage word recognition and reading skills. There are games that enforce problems solving skills and games that allow players to work together, building teamwork skills that will be invaluable as they get older.
Aside from the learning type video games, there are games that force kids to get active as well! Wii and Xbox Kinect have sports related games and other games that require kids to move, dance, and compete with others. We’ve come along way from the Nintendo Power Pad!
All this to say, I don’t recommend keeping your preschooler in front of a screen all day. Imaginative play and outdoor play are extremely important to a child’s development. I’m simply saying that, as screens are becoming more and more ubiquitous, closely monitoring what they watch and making sure that it is quality and educational is the most important thing. My kids watch everything from PBS to Nick Jr. and Netflix (currently it’s Blaze and the Monster Machines, which, oddly, introduces basic geometry skills). Screen time doesn’t have to be the evil, obesity-causing entity that people make it out to be when used appropriately and monitored closely.
(n.d.). Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/pch/article/22/8/461/4392451.
New Scientist. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn25297-children-benefit-from-the-right-sort-of-screen-time/.
Pediatrics, A. A. (n.d.). https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/american-academy-of-pediatrics-announces-new-recommendations-for-childrens-media-use.aspx.