Everyone knows screen time for little ones is a big no-no. Right? Attention problems, behavior issues, epic battles with their siblings over the remote: the problems TV can cause for kids are legion. The AAP has just issued new media guidelines for parents stressing that not only should young kids watch no TV at all, you shouldn’t watch TV yourself when your kids are around.
What if all this stress about screen time for kids is just so much fearmongering? Do screens really hurt the kids who watch them? One Slate writer is questioning the research. He says his 1-year-old son loves screen time, and letting him have it makes their lives better.
Slate isn’t advocating a free-for-all of endless cartoons for the toddler set. There should be some limits. But like the absolute prohibition on alcohol for pregnant women, there appears to be a bit of an overreaction going on here. It isn’t that a little TV will harm your kid. It’s that a lot might, and no one knows precisely where the line is.
I have no intention of plopping the baby in front of the TV for hours on end. My kid spends, at most, 30 minutes a day with a screen, and we’ve cut down his screen time even further since our doctor’s prohibition. At the same time, I’m skeptical of the blanket rule against screens. Sometimes they can’t be avoided, and letting the baby watch or play with a screen can be immensely helpful.
The studies that have shown ill effects of screen time on kids all show issues emerging in kids who watch hours of screen time every day. That’s different from a kid who’s being given an iPad to play with while dad showers.
Still, it’s clear that screen time doesn’t do anything good for young children, so why get into the habit at all? Well, as Slate points out, it buys you some peace. TV has a totally soporific effect on kids. I deploy it judiciously myself when my little ones are bouncing off the walls and I need a few minutes to make a phone call or write an article.
Do your kids watch TV? How much do you think is too much?