Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Limit Screen Time

The Positive Discipline Tool Card this week was: Limit Screen Time.  This is no small tool to try on occasion.  This is a way of life.  I feel like this is a hot topic these days, and there is a ton of info out there about it.   It is becoming more and more mainstream to limit screen exposure in young children.  That is not to say that tv/dvd's have become a thing of the past.  I am sure the majority of families still allow their children to watch tv, some allow unlimited and unregulated viewing.  But times they are a changing.

The point of view on the subject is changing.  When our daughter was born, almost six years ago, most our friends and family thought we were crazy when we declared a ban on television while she was awake or in the room.  Not only did we not intentionally show her any tv, but we also wanted to limit her "second hand" exposure to it.  We took a lot of ridicule over this "rule".  It wasn't until she was almost three years old that we started to allow her to watch things on tv.  First we let here watch an occasional documentary style program for children, and then we started recording specific shows on our dvr that we felt were safe and providing a violence free story.  She was never allowed to watch for long periods of time or on a regular basis.  This continues to this day.  She has watched a few movies here and there, and has a few favorite shows that we record for her to watch on occasion, but we still treat tv as a "treat".  Now she also has a notebook computer.  She has a few sites that she is allowed to go to and play games or read stories on.  Since this addition to her screen time repertoire we have had to come up with a reasonable limit to her daily use.  We have all agreed that 30 minutes is fair.  This does not mean that she will use 30 minutes each day, in fact that are many days that she is so busy she doesn't get any screen time, but on the days she does it is limited.  I am sure we may have to adjust this as she gets older, but for right now this works for us.

With the baby we are following the same plan.  No tv, until at least two, and then it will be very limited and regulated.  The only difference is that now we are not the crazy parents with the crazy rules.  Lots of people are jumping on the band wagon with us.  The American Academy of Pediatrics even backs us up - Talk about mainstream!  They recommend a similar plan : No screen time before two, then less than 1-2 hours for young children and the programming has to be carefully selected.  Not only have they declared that the programing and constant scene changes can be bad for developing brains, but they point out that the time spent viewing takes a ways from valuable play and real life interactions.

I see articles all the time about how bad tv is for children.  It has been linked to: lower academic function, hyperactivity, ADD, ADHD, delayed social skills, delayed language development, violent behavior, and obesity.  Just to name a few!  I think most educated adults can agree that it is probably not good for their babies to watch/ listen to the tv.

Some tips:
*Start early or from the beginning with clear limits and expectations on screen time in your home
*Keep screens out of bedrooms
*Provide alternative fun :)
*Think of screen time as a treat
* Read books - an equally satisfying activity to tv
*Provide activities in your home that your child can do independently - being able to entertain yourself is    
  a valuable life skill!

I think there are ways to incorporate screen time into your children's life in a way that won't be harmful and will most likely be helpful to you on occasion.  I get it - putting your children in front of the tv gives you time to do the things that you need to do.  Just be aware, take those moments when you need them and then get back to "real life" and enjoy your children.

Here are a few articles I have read on the subject:

Parents Urged Again To Limit TV For Youngest

AAP reaffirms no screen time for young children even though few parents listen
Understanding TV's Effects On The Developing Brain

TV and Kids under Age 3

Next week's Tool Card is:  Follow Through

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