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Media Tips for Babies and Toddlers
Using the TV, a tablet, a smart phone or video game as a babysitter may not be something to brag about, but we all know that it's an easy way to buy some necessary downtime. According to Common Sense Media's 2013 study, Zero to Eight: Children's Media Use in America, kids 8 and under spend about two hours a day interacting with screen media; 72% of kids 8 and under have used a mobile device for some sort of media activity -- and 38% of kids under 2 have used a mobile device for media. That's a lot.
Obviously, a little screen time won't harm your child. But remember that every minute spent sitting in front of a screen is a minute when your babies aren't exploring the world with all their senses.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) currently discourages screens for kids under two and advises limiting daily screen time to one to two hours for older kids. According to the AAP, excessive media use can contribute to health risks, including obesity, lack of sleep, aggression, and school problems. However, the AAP will be issuing new recommendations in 2016 emphasizing that not all screen time is equal, and that take into account the many different kinds of activities that occur on screens (for example, watching TV is not the same as video chatting with grandma). And remember, children under two have a lot of difficulty learning from screens -- it's interacting with you that helps builds baby's brains.
But it's not just quantity that matters -- quality does, too. Programs with learning potential and pro-social messages have value for all kids. And there are plenty of programs that encourage brain-stimulating interaction rather than mere passive consumption.
Here are some ideas for how to successfully manage your little one's media time.
Tips for parents of young kids
- If you're going to let babies interact with a screen, know what they're watching and playing. Be smart about the programs you pick. Choose games or programs that are age appropriate, with non-jarring sounds and bright, stimulating colors.
- Don't turn TV into preschool. Baby TV hasn't proven to be of any benefit for school readiness. The best preparation for your children involves spending time with them, reading, talking, and exposing them to the world.
- Have-it-your-way TV. Take advantage of your DVR, On-Demand service, and streaming TV on the Internet to take control over what your kids watch, when they watch, and how much they watch. Customize the experience by skipping commercials and muting parts you don't want your kids to hear.
- As kids get older, keep media out of their bedroom. When TVs or computers are in their room, kids spend more time using media, and parents are less involved with their choices.
- Teach your children to ask you whether it's OK to turn on media. This simple control mechanism helps keep gaming, TV watching, and online activity from becoming habits.
- Watch the clock. Media use increases as children get older. Less screen time improves your children's ability to entertain themselves in other ways. Set time rules, and stick to them.
- Co-view and co-play. Take an active role in your kids' media and take the time to share your values with them.