Updated: Nov 8, 2019
To screen or not to screen , it's a dilemma , is it a parents little helper or a square eyed monster? It's something every parent feels like they have to make a decision on , to justify to themselves and others and defend. Or it can be a useful tool to help out when needed and used for good. Especially when they are young. I know as a Mum, I have the tv on in the background some mornings and of an evening. But not during the day, think this stems from being the nanny , when tv wasn't allowed on so I learned to parent without it as such.
But there are so many pros and cons to screen time. And the decision is yours and your families alone. But heres is my 2 pence worth.
Younger babies, I feel it doesn't matter, they have no attention span, and Mums need it for company with long days of being house bound or feeding marathons. Its like adult conversation when there is none available.
Older babies, I have found that when they start to watch it, you need to be careful with what they watch. There are some excellent channels that are designed to stimulate in the right way a babies mind and entertain them. But I feel should be used with caution. Children can get addicted, I feel that it should be used not abused. Maybe don't have it on constantly in the background. Use viewing times as a treat or for a purpose of quiet time, night time slowing down time. Although as sexy as some of the BBC bedtime readers are ( ladies you know who I mean ) nothing substitutes for you reading to your child. But when you have multiple wee ones in the home and trying to get younger or older off on their bedtime routines, a spot of 20 mins blasted by Peppa pig can't be a god send.
I have found that the introduction of a screen and its entranced properties to wee ones that are interested and can hold their gaze is a good thing for certain purposes. When you are travelling! Long flights , thats anything over 30 mins to a wee one can be made easier if they can be engrossed in a screen rather that kicking the tray table of the seat. If you're at an appointment , or along car ride . Although for older kids I have found individual headphones that play stories to them is much better. They learn to imagine the scenes and can all have their own sets so you don't have squabbles. And can have adult conversations, or your own music in the front of the car. Inexpensive iPods loaded up with age appropriate stories to pass the time away.
Cons to this having screen time is expectation, and tantrums. If properly monitored, (get the pun) your wee one will know that when the credits come up the screen goes off and you can sidestep loud disagreements on length of watch time. Be careful not to hand your phone over at every opportunity. They don't need it at the breakfast table where they need to be involved in family life. Nor the supermarket trolley where they can be helping you with the food buy holding something or eating the list. Ive seen wee ones in pushchairs watching a screen while being pushed to a destination instead on taking in the world around them. All of these instances and many more where you are tempted to hand them a screen are learning experiences, talk about the colour of the trees , how many cars going past. In the supermarket engage them in the packets, feel, taste, smell and view all the foods, talk about them!
What to watch, when you're wee one is interested capitalise on this.
-Nature programme aimed at them , ie missing the actual prey / predator scenes, so they are learning at the same time.
-Animated classic stories, like Winnie the Pooh and Wind in the Willows.
-Do your research , watch it before you let them , and see if this cartoon is mindless drivel or is teaching them something about themselves, like self esteem or confidence or about the world and how to be kind and caring in it.
-Games that teach language ( reading) or science, maths (counting, adding, subtraction ) etc. Especially useful of you are teaching another language as they can be exposed without even knowing it . There are some great 'programmes' on dvd that lend themselves to childhood learning modules in other dialects. There are plenty out there that start from an early age, they will be learning while playing and they don't even know it. The maths games and reading games that allow them progress through levels can give them a helping hand with early learning like colours, and shapes, letters , etc. It gives them a sense of achievement.
Obviously there are cons to all this , that your child can watch the wrong things and you MUST have parental locks on all media. My 4 year nephew is so skilful on the internet he can look up anything without help. So parental controls are easy to place and can save a life time of awkwardness of trying to explain what they saw and or them wanting to watch more of this or that that wasn't appropriate.
Tv to tv sake, I am a recovering tv addict. My father tried to limit me but I was a lonely child and movies and shows offered me the escape I craved in life. So it is funny for me to be limiting my child and in the past my charges which what and when they watch. Right now my wee one is not really interested unless it has a beat, she loves music videos ! We dance around the lounge of a morning rocking out. I do have music on when we move to the playroom and the kitchen and she dances. But she like the colours and the moves of the dancers ( doesn't say much for my shapes I know ) and tries to copy them. Soon she will want to watch things and as above I will be letting her , so that if needed in an emergency ( see plane travels and appointments etc ) she will engage. And I have found that if you swing the pendulum too far the other way and don't let them watch anything , they can be ostracized amongst friends. As they don't know the cultural references and the characters. An example of this was a past job was anti Disney and my charge wasn't allowed to watch Frozen. But on play dates when dressing up ensued and songs requested for concerts in said costumes, she didn't know the genre. And was excluded. This was detrimental to her confidence within a group and I pushed hard to get her to be allowed to watch you tube music videos of the songs so she could at least join in. She was 2.5 yrs old so these things can effect them from an early age.
We are a generation of playing outside and having phones that had cords ! Tv and especially screens were not as accessible as they are to our children and we have to adapt and introduce and supervise them in the right way. They aren't an evil that turns us all in to square eyes like my mother would say but a useful education tool, when handled right. If used for a treat not a drone in the back ground. A distraction not a norm. Education not dumbing down of our kids. Screen time can help not hinder our children and enrich not deflect their lives .
But I did once see a picture of a Mother and child reading together, each their own books and someone asking , how do you get them to read? The Mothers answer, he copies what he sees, so just makes sure that you put down your screen too. Thats my 2 p worth. xx