Today, I will be covering another fairly controversial topic – screen time. In today’s fast paced, technological word I believe we should no longer be fearful of technology and embrace its uses and applications. However, how do we know when enough is enough? Do we allow our children screen time? Do we ban it all together? Or do we impose limits, restrictions and alternative options?
Navigating screen time
My husband and I were discussing this concept the other night. My little boy, Charlie is 2 on 23rd November. When he was first born and until he was around 7/8 months of age we didn’t use any TV time with him at all. I’m not sure why this was. Whether this was my preconceived notion that it would ‘rot his brain’ or trying to be the perfect of perfect parent but eventually I realised that TV could be used to enhance and develop the skills and learning I was already teaching him. In the later part of this year, he discovered that my phone could also play videos! Who knew? So, the minefield began of him asking for “phone” and us, as parents, trying to navigate this new territory.
Screen time in our house
Mostly, he uses my phone for YouTube in the morning. This is whilst I am trying to get both of us ready for the day and also battling the pain and fatigue I often feel as a result of my fibromyalgia. My husband has to leave by 7:30 a.m. most mornings and although he helps as much as he can there is still lots of bits to be done.
Charlie can be seen watching Peppa Pig, Gecko’s Garage or Cocomelon to name a few things. The Peppa Pig videos he watches are where people are playing with the playsets and demonstrating what they can do. They often interact with the watcher through questions and humour and I do find them quite educational for him. Again, Gecko’s garage explores the world of mechanics and cars, colours and vehicles and this can be really quite interesting for him. His colour vocabulary has really shot up and although I take a lot of credit for this, the videos he watches also do help him with this. Cocomelon is fun, bright and involves my favourite thing – singing. So, you will often find us curled up together watching these! Trust me, the songs follow you all day; round and round and round.
Using screen time for down time
As I stated, my husband and I were discussing screen time and whether we needed to be more mindful of when he uses it. For avid readers of my blog, you will know that Charlie and I are very busy people with very active lives. We go to baby groups, soft play, meet friends and are always darting about somewhere and everywhere. So, for me, a little bit of phone time or ‘down-time’ is something I believe to be quite beneficial for both of us. I believe it helps him to relax and decompress after a busy day and for me with my health conditions to relax with a cup of tea and a quick read of my book. It’s a win-win for both of us.
The Yes Brain Child by Dr Daniel J. Siegel and Dr Tine Payne Bryson
I am reading a very, very helpful book at the moment called ‘The Yes Brain Child’ by Dr Daniel J. Siegel and Dr Tina Payne Bryson following on from the other two books I read of theirs called ‘The Whole Brain Child’ and ‘The No Drama Discipline’. In the ‘Yes Brain Child Book’ they go onto explain how children and adults need what they coin as ‘The Healthy Mind Platter for Optimal Brain Matter’. In this platter are 7 essential activities they believe help with a child’s wellbeing and balance. These are:
- Focus time
- Play time
- Connecting time
- Physical time
- Down time
- Sleep time
p.s. If you want to purchase these books, please do click on the links I have provided to the books and at no extra cost to you, I will earn a small commission!
They suggest that it is important that everyday you help your child to have access to a wide range of these activities in a day and state that “too much or too little of any of these endeavours over time can be problematic.” Over the course of a day he has often done lots of play time, focus time, connecting time, physical time and sleep time and so I try to help him have some down time, too.
Working together though, on Sunday, Jamie and I paid close attention to his screen time. He didn’t have my phone at all until 3:30p.m. Instead, we all played together with his toys, read books, went outside in the garden and much much more. Now, please don’t read this and think we don’t do this everyday anyway! We often get through 10 books before breakfast is over. On Sunday, though, we ramped it up even more and I must say I was very sceptical as to how this would play out and I thought we would have a hard time with the resulting reaction to screen time being off but actually it was amazing. He played beautifully with his toys and we spent more quality time together. By half past 3 though, I could see that he needed some down time after our busy day and so he had a little bit of time with us imposing some restrictions such as 2 more videos and then we turn it off.
The science behind screen time
Typing ‘Screen time for kids’ into Google yielded so many results! Firstly, the Mayo Clinic published an article called ‘ Screen time and Children: How to guide your child’. They start with some of the negatives of screen time in this article which include weight problems, sleep issues and behaviour problems. To quote them directly “Children younger than age 2 are more likely to learn when they interact and play with parents, siblings, and other children and adults.” It even goes onto suggest that children under 18 months shouldn’t have any screen time whatsoever. However, they do suggest that each child and family is different and you should focus on the quality of the media they view is more important than the time spent.
Another article of interest is by NHS Forth Valley called Screen time: A guide for parents. In this article, they discuss the NICE guidelines that stipulate that there should be some days in the week when your child has no access to screens or only have a 2 hour limit. A quote from the article says “Children learn best from real life experiences and interaction, and time spent in front of a screen is time not spent interacting with those around them.” They also go onto discuss how children are not able to pick language up from TV or screens until they are over 2. Furthermore, they do give a recommendation that you choose something you could both watch together so you can talk about what is happening.
The last article of interest I read was by Dr Jennifer Cross on the Health Matters website. In this article they discuss some of the harmful sides to letting children have screen time and state “screen time may be associated with delayed development in young children.” This article summarises that screen time under 18 months is not recommended or if it is that only 1 hour a day.
So, an awful lot of findings on screen time. Has it changed my opinion at all? Overall, I would say no it hasn’t changed my opinion because I know that he does not have more than 2 hours a day or even more than 1 hour a day. I know that I am enriching his development through all the activities we do, places we go, people we see and books we read so I still stand by that a little bit of screen time especially whilst I am getting us ready in the morning or cooking tea is beneficial to both of us.
Mummy the Fibro Warrior Top Tip:
- Do think carefully about your child’s screen time and consider the healthy mind plate I discussed above. However, don’t beat yourself up if your child is having some screen time. You are the judge as to what is best for your child and as long as they are having a mixture of activities in a day, they will develop just fine.
If there is one takeaway I’d like you all to remember today is that screen time is a new parental challenge we are all in together! You are not alone in this battle. You are a fabulous parent even if your child is using a screen for a little bit of time. I need you to know you are doing the best you can, your child/children love you just as you are and you are Mummy the Fibro Warrior.
Until next time,
p.s. Do you allow your child screen time? Do let me know your views in the comments below!