Media, Screens and Parenting

The Seattle Times recently had two interesting articles regarding media and screen time for children. The first was Monica Guzman’s article: Is Screen Time Play Time? Making Sense of Tots and Tablets.

This article brought into question the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation for no screen time for children age 2 and younger, and no more than one or two hours screen time for older kids.  She is encouraging more research regarding level of brain activity for children playing with interactive screens.

The second article was called “Study: Better TV Might Improve Kids’ Behavior” by Donna Gordon Blankinship.

This was a Seattle study comparing the behavior of young children watching TV.  This article explores whether children watching educational programs have less behavioral problems than children watching more violent programs.

I suspect there will be findings of more brain activity with a child using an interactive screen then with a child watching a video or TV program.  I also suspect children watching educational programs will have less violent behavioral problems than children who are feeding on a steady diet of violent programming.  There is one point I feel is being missed in both of these articles. The point is that any type of screen time is taking away from the vital time children need to learn the essential skills of being a person. These essential skills relate to imagination, creativity, socialization, and compassion in the real three-dimensional world.  When a child is using any kind of screen they are not interacting with another person or with the real three-dimensional world around them. They are not making eye contact with anyone, not learning to read another’s face or body language.  They are not developing and practicing language with another person, which is so important for developing their imagination and creativity.   They are not using their whole body, mind and imagination to interact with the world around them. Physical movement is essential for brain development.  The brain needs the body to move to develop and make connections.  They are not learning to be patient, kind or loving with a real person. I am not saying that a child should never use a screen.  What I am saying is parents need to be vigilant about screen time.  Be wary of giving in to the temptation to hand over your phone or tablet to your small child.  You may have trouble getting it back and they will want it more and more! Instead, keep playing with them, talking to them, reading to them and providing safe opportunities for them to explore the very real world at their fingertips.  Make sure your child is not overusing screens in any form because if they are they will miss out on important experiences children need to grow into healthy happy adults.

For more information about this subject I strongly recommend reading: Parenting Well in a Media Age: Keeping Our Kids Human by Gloria Degataeno

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