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As moms, we’re always struggling with the right answer. Should I breastfeed or bottle feed? Should we co-sleep? Is it too early for a toddler bed? Is she making enough eye contact? How many words does she say now?
We never stop worrying about what we should be doing or should not be doing. Everyone has a different opinion on the best and healthiest way to raise a child, it can be confusing and exhausting.
So let me just take a moment to tell you, as long as you love your kiddos and occasionally question your parenting practices, then you’re doing a pretty damn good job. There are no concrete answers to the age old question of what’s right but I’ll share with you my decision on screen time so hopefully you can at least feel slightly less guilty about that for now.
How Much Screen Time is Too Much?
At what age can children start watching movies or playing with phones and tablets? What counts as screen time? Does the quality of what’s being shown matter? So many questions, right!?
For some people it’s just really hard to keep your kids busy without using the television or some kind of computer device. We have laundry to do, lunches to make, rooms to clean… you know the list. Sometimes we need to stick our kid in front of the tv so we can actually *try* to get things done… or sometimes we just need 5 min to ourselves.
Screen time is ok for kids over 18mos of age. I mean yea, it’s not ideal, and it’s certainly not the top pediatrician-recommended activity, but it’s ok. I’m not going to lie, my kid gets a good amount of screen time. We balance her activities with interaction and outside play as well and she goes to daycare two days a week so we know she spends plenty of time on activities that do not not include a screen. We’re comfortable with her development, speech, interactions and socialization.
When you need a free babysitter, your TV is right in the living room. You can pour some cheerios in a snack bowl, fill a 360 cup with water, and throw on the newest episode of Sesame Street, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood or my daughters all-time favorite Doc McStuffins. You’ll be sure to get a good 40 min to yourself so you can clean your bathroom… or scroll through Facebook. We all need mental breaks from the kiddos so trust me, I’m not judging. 😉
TV time can be so good for allowing us the breaks we so desperately need. You can’t always call a babysitter on a whim just so you can scoop the litter box, and if your child is at the age my child is at, where they’re trying to put crayons in light sockets, you probably prefer they do something that keeps them still for a few consecutive minutes. Despite what some moms will tell you, I’m saying it’s ok to use the TV as a babysitter. I know that if you’re the type of mama to ask how much screen time is “too much”, you’re a good mama. Don’t beat yourself up because you kid watches TV while you cook, clean, or unwind.
So, ok, I did say screen time was ok, and it is! But… all things in moderation, right?
The bad behind screen time is that it’s not sufficient interaction for learning and development. Now TV doesn’t hinder learning and development but if you’re dropping your kid in front of a screen for 6 hrs a day and not having face to face interactions with them, they’ll be missing out on very important socialization skills.
It’s really important that we spend time with our kids, playing and exploring, talking and singing. They learn to regulate their emotions, express their feelings, and understand body language, by interacting with people, face to face. We cannot use screens as a substitute for good old personal connection so if you are using screens, be conscientious about how often they’re being used.
Despite what some will push on you, screen time will not burn holes into your child’s eyes. There is actually very little effect on vision. This article explains a little more about the way screens can affect vision.
Children really do need human interaction to thrive. And they should be able to play quietly by themselves for a short period of time. They need to learn to regulate their own emotions, including boredom, and they need to develop socialization skills. These things will not be accomplished with a TV, phone or tablet. So, as long as you’re giving your child a good amount of face to face time, and as long as their development remains on track, screen time is a perfectly ok tool for helping busy parents carve out some time to get things done.
If you’re concerned that you’re using the screens too often, try some alternative activities!