Believe it or not, managing screen time for toddlers is an essential part of parenting. I am not perfect and am definitely guilty of using the TV as a babysitter every now and then.
Sometimes you just gotta do what ya gotta do.
However, most professionals make it very clear that TV and media limits should be put in place. And you may actually be surprised to learn what the recommended screen time for toddlers and children actually is.
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What is the recommended screen time for toddlers?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children aged 2 to 5 should be limited to just one (1) hour of screen time. And even better yet, children under 18 months should have no screen time.
I know what you may thinking – one hour, that’s it?! I mean, that wouldn’t even cover the time it takes to watch one Disney movie.
But here’s the thing, children are like little sponges. They soak up everything they are learning from their environment.
Have you ever watched a child while they were watching a show? It is almost as if they are in a daze. How much are they really learning while inundated in the TV?
Chances are not a lot.
And I believe that is the point that the AAP is trying to make. They even mention in their article that television decreases play, sleep, study and/or talking.
It’s important to remember these are prime years to be teaching our young children new skills. Whether it be sign language, a new language, problem-solving, socializing, the Alphabet, counting, etc.
Us, as parents, need to capitalize on these years. We need to give our children a good foundation to work with as they age.
And what about watching a movie?
Do I really think watching a movie every now and then is going to hurt? I am no medical professional, but I don’t believe so. It’s important, for you, as the parent to use your best judgement in this area.
What Kind of Screen Time for Toddlers?
So now that we know how much screen time. The next question that arises is ‘what kind of screen time for toddlers’ should we be using?
Well, the general consensus seems to be that any screen time should be educational. That’s no surprise there, really.
This next part may come as an eye-opener, however. It is also recommended that we, as parents, be watching the show along with our children.
Why, you ask?
So we can help explain what is going on in the show. For example, let’s say Clifford in ‘Clifford the Big Red Dog’ gets upset at Jetta because she won’t share her bones. I could explain how that made Clifford sad; that it’s nice to share, when we can.
It creates a learning opportunity for our children. And helps to expand their knowledge and language.
What exactly makes up a good, educational show? I was able to find a few examples over at GreatSchools.org. They include:
- Sesame Street
- Dora the Explorer
- Clifford the Big Red Dog
- Blue’s Clues
While not an extensive list, it does give you a starting point.
Our Personal Experience with Screen Time for Toddlers
I want to share with you what we discovered in terms of screen time for our own child.
I’m going to be straight with you. We truly did not watch television during those first 18 months of childhood.
We played, read lots of books, practiced new skills and frequently napped. And I was super proud of what we had accomplished.
Our daughter was exceeding, speaking clearly and in full sentences early on and retaining so much information.
However, things didn’t stay so hunky dory. I did mention earlier that I am not a perfect parent, right?
At age 2 things started to change a bit. We got a little more lenient on the TV time.
Then the holidays came. And we got even more lenient on how much screen time we were using.
And the next thing I know, we have a little one that is always begging “just one more show, just one more”.
So you might be wondering. Big deal, what’s the point? The point is that we (meaning my husband and I) both saw in a difference in our child.
We found everything the AAP was saying to be 100% true.
Our nap and bedtimes were a mess, we were playing and using our imaginations less and we weren’t setting aside enough time to learn new skills.
Luckily, at this young age, it’s not that difficult to turn around bad habits. And while we could be better still, it is something that we are constantly working towards to improve.
How We Can Do Better
I, full-heartedly believe, that overall as a society, we can do better in the amount of television and media our children are consuming. And I also understand that for some of us, it can be difficult to overcome.
Many households have one parent trying to do it all or both parents working full-time jobs. Whatever the reason may be, I get that it can be hard.
My advice would be to start small. Maybe cut the after-preschool showing, go outside instead. Or eat at the dinner table and not in front of the TV.
Every little bit adds up and will help in the long run.
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