As parents we receive never ending amounts of conflicting advice about raising our little ones. One highly scrutinized issue being screen time. As a former pediatric nurse, and a mom of an only child, with no pals to entertain him other than his parents, the inner conflict is real.
Prior to being a mom, I worked on a pediatric unit for nearly ten years. We regularly used tablets and movies to help keep the kiddos mind’s off all the stuff going on around them in the hospital. Occasionally, a parent may scoff at the use of a TV, movie, or a tablet being offered to their child. And of course, every parent has a right to chose what’s works best for their child and family. That being said, a little screen time on hospital unit really has some medical benefits. Devices can be used as a distraction tool in a high stress environment. They can help reduce the amount of anti-anxiety, and pain medications needed for our pediatric population. Often, the distraction provided by the screen can get a child though minor procedures without the use of medications.
At home there can be a fine balance when it comes to the use of devices for little ones. Personally, I am a strong believer that bit of anything, as long as it’s safe, is good for little one. A little bit of sugar, a little bit of TV, a little bit of fighting with cousins 😊, a little bit of dirt. To me balance is the key to an active, healthy, brain developing life style. In daycare, my son is learning and playing nine hours a day, with two outside playtimes. So when home, we let him watch his shows while we get dressed, cook, or if he’s just tired from being outside and needs some downtime. Knowing as a family we are active and outside as much as possible (weather permitting in the Midwest of course) We do projects, read books, play games regularly. I think some screen time is beneficial can promote learning, and occasionally needed so mom can get something done once in awhile.
Not that I’m promoting ignoring issues associated with screen-time. For example, shortly before my son’s second birthday, a full out temper tantrum would ensue anytime I took the device away. More specifically, when it came to MY phone. Devices can activate the addiction portions of our brains. In our house we do have generalized ground rules that help, and consistency is key.
#1: I have only safe educational apps on my phone for my son to use.
#2: I set a time limit in my own brain before I hand my son a device, and stick to it when it’s time to take it away.
#3: I put my device away. Being a role model is necessary. I can’t expect my son not to want to be on a device if my husband and I are on ours all the time.
#4: If it’s a battle to take the device away, we stop using it all together for awhile. Again, consistency is key here. Even if that grocery store run is an embarrassing hell, I will not give the phone up just to keep my my son quiet if he’s not following the rules.
To reiterate, screen time must be limited, and can be a healthy part of your family routine if used with ground rules. I recommend using screentime only when a healthy mix of exercise, outside time, creative time, and reading/learning are regular parts of a child’s lifestyle.
American Academy of Pediatrics Reccomendations:
American Academy of Pediatric Media Plan: