Last month the World Health Organization came out with screen time guidelines for our children. How much screen time is the right amount for our kids?
The World Health Organization says too much screen time is hurting our kids and their development. They came out with their first-ever recommendations last April of 2019. The screen time recommendations are no screen time under two years of age, one hour of screen time under five years, and three hours of active play for two to five-year-olds.
Do you think that's realistic?
At first, I thought no, but then I did some research, and I've realized that we've kind of fallen into some bad habits as a family. Have you, too?
I think we are tired.
I think we are bored with the slow pace of watching a little one all day.
I think we don't have other tools at our disposal that work as well as screens do.
I think we want our children to be comfortable with technology.
We think we're doing great, because the kids are doing something educational on their apps, or tablets, or watching educational shows.
I think WE want to be on our screens too.
I totally get why we use screens. I'm a mom of three, and I totally understand the need for screens and the way that they help us every day, but let me share with you some tools and some research that I found out when I was looking into this.
Are you tired?
Well, if you have a baby under the age of one or a child that doesn't sleep through the night, then just do what you can to survive, right? I mean, sleep whenever you can, get as much rest as possible, but I know that doesn't always work out, so ask for help. Ask for help from your family, from your spouse or partner, from other mom friends, you can do a little swap, from grandparents, even hire a sitter.
If you can't get help and you can't sleep, the next thing I'd say is drink lots of water. Water is energy. We are made of water. It's important to drink lots of water, and when you're eating, make sure you're not giving in to sugar and caffeine all the time, but you're trying to get in protein and greens. Protein and greens give you so much more energy than anything else. Even though it seems that caffeine will help you, it's such a temporary thing.
Are you bored?
Well, the best cure for boredom is to invite other people over, or to go outside, go meet with people, go hang out with people. Set up playdates, join mom groups. Oftentimes, hospitals will be in connection with different mom groups in your local area, or you can go on meetup.com, or just search Google for a local moms group. It's a great way to make friends. It's a great way to get out, kind of stay awake, get some fresh air, and activate your mind and your body.
Nothing works as well as a screen to occupy your child?
Believe me, I've been there too, and sometimes, you do have to just call in the screen help. But we can do other things, too. Put together a group of toys in your house that is activating the senses of your child, something with a lot of texture, or sound, or feeling, or visual.
WATER works really well. Stick them in the bath, go outside in a little kiddie pool. Anything to engage their senses will keep them playing on their own, independently, for hopefully long enough for you to make that phone call or get that work done.
So you're worried your child might fall behind if they don't have screens?
Well, I worried about that too. In fact, I let my kids watch Minecraft, only because I wanted them to keep up with their friends, but after doing the research, Silicon Valley executives do not have their children use iPads, use tablets, and they go to Waldorf schools most often, and Waldorf schools don't believe in screens until over the age of 12.
So, even though you think you might be hurting, if you want your child to be a creator, and not just a consumer, the best thing you can do is fuel their imagination with things that they are doing as opposed to being fed information through the screens. So, even though you might think, "Oh, maybe they won't be quite as good at video games," I think your child will thank you later, because they'll be excited about all the things that they got to do when they were young, that will help them in the world moving forward.
My child is playing with educational apps or watching PBS television shows.
Yes, that is much better than a lot of the other things they could be doing on their screens, but the fact remains that the best thing, they're saying, that we can do is to do that with our child, so if you are going to be using those apps or watching those TV shows, they are saying you should be with your child and helping them do that at the same time, or better yet, not using a screen to teach them those things.
So while it's great to have educational viewing, educational videos on screens, that is fantastic, but it would be even better if you could do it off screens. If you're going to be using screen time, it's much easier on our child's brains to have screens that are farther away from them and that are not interactive, so if you are going to put those shows on, it's best to do it on your family television at home as opposed to the little iPad, where they can swipe and interact with everything.
We want screen time too, right?
Modeling is one of the most important things that we do for our kids, so it's great to use our screen, but try to set aside specific time blocks where we are doing that, so set your phone across the room and just use it when you know it's time to use it. Don't respond to every notification, and every ding, and every response when you're with your child, so you're setting the right example for proper device behavior.
Now you know exactly what to do to discourage screen time. Let me know, what do you think of the screen time guidelines? Are they realistic? Do you think that they have the right recommendations? Would you like to find out what happened to our family when we stopped using screens for an entire week?
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