Screen TIme-How A Big Purple Dinosaur Will Hurt Your Child

25 Jan

So…what is screen time?  Why should I be concerned about it?

Screen time is any time that your child sits down in front of a screen (ummm, obvious statement, I guess).  But let’s look at some of the screens that should be included in screen time:

  1. TV
  2. Computer
  3. Phone
  4. LeapPad
  5. Nintendo DS…

So many different things can be counted as screen time.

What are some of the things that screen time has been linked to?

  1. Poor sleep (Every minute that your child is on a screen near bed time delays sleep onset by 2 minutes.)
  2. Obesity (See my post on obesity but screen time decreases time for activity…The 3 S’s of Childhood Obesity)
  3. Poor academic performance (TVs in a child’s room has been shown to decrease their performance on tests.)

So, how much screen time is too much?

Under 2 years – 1 Minute (yeah, sorry Baby Einstein)

Over 2 years – 1-2 hours

Now, does everyone bend these rules from time to time?  Of course.

But here are some guidelines I like to try to live by:

Don’t use the TV as a babysitter.  If your child is going to watch something, sit down and watch it with him or her.  Studies have shown that a strong predictor of future success is a child’s ability to empathize and understand what other’s are feeling.  Stop the show and ask your child how s/he thinks Barney feels when Baby Bop was mean to him, etc.

Turn off the TV in the background.  Unless of course this background TV is a football/basketball/baseball game which, in my professional opinion, doesn’t count.  Try to read a book with a strobe light flashing in the corner of your eye…distracting?  That’s how you child feels with the flashing lights and quick changes of the TV on in the corner.

Manage your child’s viewing habits.  Record the shows that you want your child to watch.  Our current favorites are Curious George and Team UmiZoomi.  In the past we have watched Super Why.  If you have some staples saved up, you can go to them when it is time to give your two boys a break from killing each other over the toy bowling pins (maybe that’s specific to our house).

Even your teenagers needs some help managing their screen time.  Remember that they have already spent quite a bit of time at school on the computer, sneaking texts to a girlfriend while trying to keep from getting their phone taken away, etc.  Many students continue receiving text messages late into the night.  That ding on their phone releases a little burst of dopamine (Somebody likes me enough to text me!) that is similar to what people get with a drug high.  Imagine trying to go to sleep high on cocaine…probably not easy.

Finally, your children (and probably you) need help with managing their screen time.  They will not do it on their own.  Use your time wisely to try to make it productive in some way.

And if you child currently has unlimited free time on their screens…suit up for battle!


5 Responses to “Screen TIme-How A Big Purple Dinosaur Will Hurt Your Child”

  1. Kelly January 26, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

    I am not for lil’ ones watching much tv (although I love Baby Einstein), but I did have a question in regards to children under 2 watching “not even one minute.” I understood your family did the “My Baby Can Read” Program, is that not a DVD program? If so what is your opinion on this? Was considering it for our new son……

    • jrsmith120880 January 26, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

      Yes we did YBCR for our oldest according to the plan which involves about 20-30 min per day of screen time or double that if you have the child watch twice a day as the program recommends (we didn’t). That was one of the reasons I was careful to say that we all bend the rules. Since he went through the program the long term benefits of YBCR have been questioned. But I think if you are going to do any screen time before 2 it’s as good as anything else. Baby Einstein is fine too but their claims that it makes kids smarter have been disputed to the point where they will provide you a refund for money you have spent on their DVDs. So, basically to say to everyone out there (not just Kelley), use screen time as you wish but be careful with what your goals are.

    • jrsmith120880 January 26, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

      We also love the leapfrog series and I personally think they do a pretty good job teaching basic math and reading concepts.

      • kelly January 26, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

        Oh, I did not realize Baby Einstein claimed to make babies smarter…i just like the simplicity of them. Good to know about YBCR, may rethink that. And, yes we love LeapFrog….those are great!

      • jrsmith120880 January 26, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

        Here’s a link to the NYT article about the BE recall:

        Interesting read no matter what people think about them.

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