Thursday, March 16, 2017

Itty bitty ones and screen time


Screens! There are so many. And they are everywhere. Even AAP relaxed their screen time recommendations in recognition of the ubiquity of screens. I remember when my little one was born, AAP recommended no screens for children under 2. Current recommendations relaxed the no-screen age from 2 years to 18 months. Like many other things related to parenting, I have been flying by the seat of pants, and experimenting as I go along. Here are some observations from our ongoing screen time adventures.

Under 18 months? No screens for you: We did not adhere to that. Part of it has to do with very different approaches that me and my husband take to screens (and parenting in general). I was the stickler in the beginning, determined that my child would view no screen until 2 years. Husband is several notches more laissez faire than me, felt screens were fine birth onwards. After several battles, a compromise was reached. I don't recall the exact age, but it was somewhere between 12 and 18 months.

So many screens and so little time: At first, I didn't distinguish between different kinds of screens and let the toddler do as he wanted. TV? Sure! iPhone? Why not! Laptop? Here ya go! But then I dialed it back quickly after seeing him flip from one video to another at a dizzying pace on the touchscreen phone. My toddler has pretty good attention span for doing tasks, but watching him with that level of stimulation gave me future ADHD nightmares. For now, I have stuck to less interactive screens like TV. Watch a show. Finish viewing. Turn it off.

Screen as a pacifier: Kids and restaurants don't mix well together. "Twenty minutes in a high chair is about all you can reasonably expect from a toddler... Little bodies need to move" When he was having a meltdown, initially a smartphone seemed like a very effective pacifier. Avoid the angry stares from other patrons. Enjoy our meals in peace for a little bit. But then our child became Pavlov, and we were his little rats. When every meltdown was rewarded with a phone, they just became more frequent. Eating out is an important social skill. Sowing seeds for that ineptitude so early didn't quite sit right with me. So I stopped caring about strangers stares. If the meltdown was too intense, one of us walked out with him until he calmed down. Now instead of playing with a phone at a restaurant, he plays with his food. Baby steps!

Screen as babysitter: AAP recommends against using screens like electronic babysitters. Easier said than done! As I discussed some of my childcare challenges with limited financial resources in a previous post, this is the rule I feel guiltiest about breaking, but I continue to break it anyway. In AAP's ideal world, "parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing". In my real world, while my child is glued to the front of a TV, that is some precious time to hastily get stuff done. However I did find a workaround through a loophole for that AAP recommendation. Toddlers love to view the same thing over and over. We cut the cord and watch most of our TV via Netflix/Amazon Prime etc. I watch a few episodes of some shows with him, and then play the same ones over and over for him.

All programming is not created equal: I have found PBS to be the highest quality, though even with PBS, not all shows are equally good. By far my favorites are Sesame Street, Daniel Tiger and Peg+Cat. There was a even a study showing correlation between Daniel Tiger viewing and children's emotional intelligence. Adding anecdotal evidence, I have taught my son to apologize using the episode where Daniel Tiger learns to apologize. And to clean up after himself using Daniel Tiger's jingles "Clean up, pick up, put away. Clean up, everyday".


Practicing the preaching: All this fussing about my toddler and his screen habits have made me rethink my own screen time. Excluding unavoidable screen time (work/school related), I tried to take an inventory of the my avoidable screen time. I am not much of a regular TV watcher, my biggest avoidable time sink was checking social media on my smart phone. A strategy that I have had moderate success with involved creating extra hurdles to view social media. You can read about it in greater detail at my blog here. Less time with my face in a screen meant more time being present (actually present) for my munchkin.

It's been a bumpy ride but I feel like we have reached somewhat of a steady state with our relationship with screens... for now. But these pesky children keep growing up, ensuring that the steady state will not stay so for long. Screen time for kiddos has been in recent news, with stories of links between increased screen time and diabetes risk and teens replacing drugs with smartphones. Even without those scary stories, I am dreading navigating the whole wild world of smart phones, video games, internet and social media when my itty bitty one is no longer so little and outgrows PBS Kids. Mothers in Medicine with children of all ages, share your own screen time adventures. What has guided your approach to your children and screens? What screen related rules do you use in your house? Did you have it all figured out or do you fumble around like me?

12 comments:

  1. My son is two and a half and still doesn't rally have any screen time. He doesn't watch any TV, the only thing that we do on occasion now is to look something up on the computer if he has a specific question.

    I'm about to have baby number 2, and my husband and I are both all or nothing type people, so it's easier to just never think of it as an option. Plus this way it will be easier to enforce zero screen time for the baby. Maybe once she's 18-24 months old we will reassess, but for now our lives are fine without it!

    I really look forward to my son being old enough to be able to take him to the movies though!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for your good kids' program recommendations, which I will file away for future use. My kid is 16 months, and I will admit that she gets passive TV exposure during dinnertime almost every night. But that's it otherwise. She doesn't really seem to look at it much except if there is a big puppy on the screen or cute music playing. How bad is this? My question is, how bad is it for her to hear gunshots, swearing, etc. incidentally through the TV?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think she will be fine at this age - she's paying attention to you both a lot more at this age. So no gunshots or swearing at her in the house:)

      Delete
  3. I refuse to obsess about this. In an ideal world my daughter would be having high quality interactions with fully engaged caregivers 100% of the time. Who the heck lives in that world? The reality is that she watches some tv (30-60 min) most days. On the weekends it is more, otherwise it is impossible to get anything done around the house. It would be nice if I could send her outside to play with friends. We can't. It's not something I can control, so I don't stress about it. A few things we don't do: no food in front of the tv, no tv in the bedroom, and no adult tv (except nature shows). Man I miss adult tv. Someday....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I went for YEARS without adult TV. I was so ready to shut down when they went to bed I could not handle one more noise so I read instead. Back to adult TV and loving it - there's hope!

      Delete
    2. I totally agree w/ you about the "nothing gets done without a little TV" notion. I use this in small doses. We also only have one TV in the living room, no bedroom TV, and we only watch it around dinnertime.

      Delete
  4. I tend to be on the permissive side here and it has worked out ok so far. We didn't have smartphones when my kids were little so I got to skip that dilemma. I allowed some TV as long as they weren't zombies all day in front of it. In the pre-teen and teen world, I let them have their ipads and Cecelia (14) her phone in their bedrooms as long as they shut down at a reasonable hour - I monitor Jack more at 11. If Jack wants to sit around for a few hours playing video games with his friends on the weekend I remind myself when I worry that he has good grades and does well in two activities and tears through books weekly so I need to chill. We have had to restrict and delete some apps that seemed innocent enough but turned out to have a little x rated in them. And get my son out of a chat room on some app with bullying and inappropriate behavior. I think as long as you monitor as they get older to ensure they are using them responsibly it helps. Schools do a really good job these days of lecturing on the dangers of internet.

    ReplyDelete
  5. My kid didn't watch TV herself until she was more than a year old, but she was in the room as an infant when I had the TV on while I was cooking or cleaning up. My husband did *not* like it when I watched adult TV with her in the room. The TV was way up high, and the kid never appeared to notice it, but I stopped doing it because it bothered him.

    She didn't watch regular cable until she was 7 or 8 - before that it was all DVDs or VHS tapes (we're old) and the same ones over and over, usually ballet or "That's Entertainment." Once she started watching Disney and Nickoledeon shows, we noticed a marked increase in obnoxious behavior, so we blocked them.

    She's now 17 and has unlimited screen and Internet access. For us, it works better to define our expectations (homework and chores must be done, you have to get enough sleep, you have to be civil to your parents) and then let her figure out how to make it happen. She knows that if we think she's having trouble meeting expectations, we will confiscate her phone and laptop. We haven't had to do that in quite a while.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Good to hear the variety of approaches people are using with screens and kiddos. Here's another interesting article I saw recently about babies/toddlers and screens. It was also sad to hear this past week about the proposed elimination of funding for PBS and NPR.

    ReplyDelete
  7. We do try to limit screen time for our 18 month old but we're not that successful. Honestly, we were really excited when we realized he was finally interested in cartoons (haha I guess we're bad parents). Sometimes you really do need something to distract your kid with! He watches cartoons in the mornings sometimes for 15 min if one of us is on our own and he needs something to occupy him while we're in the shower (otherwise we get to take a shower serenaded by his screams). If we go out to dinner we usually whip out some cartoons around halfway through when he starts getting fussy. Honestly though I feel a bit guilty about it, I fail to see how it will permanently damage him. My husband admits that the TV was on constantly in his home growing up (as the youngest of 5 he got it all the time) and he is the most intelligent and well read person I know!

    ReplyDelete
  8. My husband and I tried for a long time to adhere to the now-outdated AAP recommendation of zero screen time for our almost 2-year-old daughter. There is no issue of needing to entertain her while we are getting ready, as we are both interns and therefore out the door when she is still fast asleep (nanny gets here at 6am). In recent months we have relaxed things a little. We now let her look at photos on the iPhone, and we video chat with relatives on the weekends. We don't usually watch TV or movies with her (this is easy as we don't have a TV in our living room, and just use netflix on our computer after she goes to bed). The COMPLETE exception to this would be airplanes, where anything goes. Phones, videos, cartoons... I'll do whatever it takes to keep her entertained and sitting in one place for 6 hours while crossing the country to visit relatives, which we have done several times at this point. I too am worried about the future problems of chat rooms and media use instead of outdoor play and physical activity, etc. I try to avoid thinking about it as it gives me anxiety...

    ReplyDelete

Comments on posts older than 14 days are moderated as a spam precaution. So.Much.Spam.