Parenting, Tips

What I Hate About Screen Time

I know there’s a lot to love about screen time. It’s so easy! The kids stay in one spot. My son will absentmindedly eat during screen time so I can sneak in veggies. It’s a great bribe. It’s perfect when I make an important phone call and I need my son to be occupied. It helps on sick days when your child needs rest. It’s a great way to bond by watching a favorite video. Lots of shows are educational. The list goes on.

What I hate about screen time is the after effects. We always seem to have more behavioral problems after my son has watched screen time. He has more meltdowns throughout the day. He is more physically aggressive (even though he wasn’t watching something that displayed violence). Maybe it’s because we don’t have a TV, so I have to physically take the screen out of his hands. Maybe it’s because we already limit access. Whatever the reason, the extra tantrums are deterring me from offering screen time. Tantrums aren’t the only negative side effect of screen time. A study done in 2007 shows that more than two hours of TV a day can lead to problems with sleep, attention, and aggressive behavior. Screen time has also been linked to issues with poor social skills and obesity.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that for toddlers, screen time should be limited to no more than one hour a day of “high-quality”programming. Parents are encouraged to co-view shows or co-play apps with their children, which basically takes away a lot of the reasons parents use screen time in the first place (aka, to get stuff done). I will say that when I co-watch with my son, he is less likely to lash out once we are done watching a show. I’m able to use messages from the shows in our daily life (ex: “remember when {tv character} had a hard time riding their bike but they kept trying?”)

The AAP also recommends creating a “Media Plan” for your family. They include numerous suggestions such as having screen-free zones, screen-free times, and device curfews. You can use these guidelines to create a custom plan for your family, or a custom plan for each child.  They also recommend choosing media that is worth your time: “More than 80,000 apps are labeled as educational, but little research has demonstrated their actual quality. Products pitched as ‘interactive’ should require more than ‘pushing & swiping.'”

I know that media can be a powerful tool in promoting interaction, connection and creativity.  So I’d love your suggestions! What do you do to monitor screen time? What apps or shows have been most beneficial for you to co-watch or co-play with your child?