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Media and Screen-Time: Tips and Guidelines

Submitted by Heather on Mon, 10/29/2018 - 10:45
  1. One piece of very valuable info, if you don't already know about it, is a website that has a lot of articles and reviews for all things books, shows, games, and movies.  Here is the link, you can browse a number of topics and it gives reviews for shows and movies, which we find VERY helpful.  https://www.commonsensemedia.org/screen-time/how-much-screen-time-is-ok-for-my-kids This particular article link is about screen time, and what is considered the upper limit for various ages. For preschoolers, they limit this to one hour a day, and I think that's a good guideline, but remember it depends on the effect this has on your child, you may find less is better if your child is having an emotional time of it afterwards. Some children find it's hard to get engaged in other things when they've been watching shows, this varies as well. You know your child best, and it’s helpful to think about how the shows or other interactive media might be impacting them.
  2. Just because it’s attractive and they like it, doesn’t mean they should have access to it. Media is tricky, designed to pull kids in, and we need to use our parental judgement about whether it is okay for them to consume, instance by instance.
  3. In addition to this, it's helpful to know that website is one source that allows you to find slower-paced, less stimulating shows more akin to Mr. Rogers (always a good option) that are engaging and developmentally appropriate. Here are some additional examples: Daniel Tiger, Blue's Clues, Kipper, Puffin Rock, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and other Stories, Peppa Pig. Things on Netflix can change rapidly, so these shows might have to be found elsewhere, it could also be useful to talk with other parents about shows they have found that are appropriate for these ages. 
  4. Try to avoid using media as a consistent quick fix when waiting in lines, in the grocery cart, or for a doctor appointment. It is good for children to gain patience through these kinds of experiences and if they need to be engaged without you possibly using books or crayons where children are able to engage with other kinds of skill building and engagement, is a good way to avoid it becoming an easy habit to get online at every moment of boredom.
  5. Media can easily insert itself between parent and child as a way for parents to get more done (so understandable in our busy lives), and this can be hard long term, as it minimizes parent-child engagement and connection, which is what children need most to thrive. 
  6. Some devices and TVs have the capacity to turn off the "blue light". It's worth exploring if you can do this before your child watches, because it's been shown to interrupt circadian rhythms, altering when your child would naturally be sleepy, to use screen time with blue light on (which it typically is set to on), especially in the evenings or right before a nap. 
  7. Consider the angle and distance your child is from a device. Sitting upright and not looking down all the time is easier on growing backs than hunching over. Also, keeping the device off your child's body as much as possible is a good habit, as the radiation from the device itself might eventually be a health issue (research is mixed on this). Sitting at a table or having a table or pillow between your child and the device to sit it on, is one approach to this when it's not a screen like a TV. 
  8. Engaging with your child while watching a show or reading a story is a great way to grow parent-child connection and start conversations that wouldn't necessarily have started otherwise. This is one way to actively use media as a connection starter. Enjoying what your child enjoys goes a long way towards building that life long bond. 
  9. We are advocates of minimizing home media at Caterpillar Cottage but avoiding all media can have its social drawbacks too. And this is worth thinking about. One issue is that it can create some distance between your child and their peers since so many children have screen time these days. Just think of the times when you may have not seen a movie or show that your friends saw and how that can decrease your contribution to a conversation. This is something to keep in mind as well, and a good reason to connect with other parents of your child's peers about what kinds of shows their children watch. If some shows can be the same and are appropriate for age and stage, these are great ways to build more opportunities for children to engage in play around these themes when they are in school together. 
  10. Frustration about lack of instant gratification can be supported with a lot of media input because the fast pace and instant gratification (with video games for example). Instead of media-based games, physical games and manipulatives require frustration tolerance as a practice towards skill development, this is important for children to experience, as tolerance for failing at the things we try is the only way to eventually succeed as the most challenging things in life require lots of practice and don't come easily. 

We hope these topics and thoughts are helpful to your family's process of thinking through what kind of home media practices work best for your child.