“Dr. Linda, my 18-month-old son has temper tantrums when I turn off the computer games. What is going on ?”

Most young babies and toddlers today get exposed to hours of baby screen time every week. Many of them get screen time every day. This short blog post is to present a quick summary of the effects of baby screen time, and, to suggest a few easy habits you may want to develop, as you proactively decide how much baby screen time you will offer your baby every day.

The Down-side…

Baby screen time screen time leads to:

  • Sleep difficulties and decreased sleep duration.
    6-12-month-olds exposed to screen time in the evening hours experience less sleep.
    Read more about getting your baby back to sleep here.
  • Difficulties with attention (it’s no wonder our children are being given the ADHD label)
  • Poorer learning skills.
  • Obesity.
    A recent study of 2 year-olds showed that their BMI (body mass index) increased for every hour of screen time use per week: Increased BMI correlated to baby screen time!

Potential for Up-side…

Educational Apps:

Many parents use baby screen time to expose their babies and toddlers to educational material. Unfortunately, recent reviews of hundreds of baby/toddler ‘educational’ apps have shown that:

  • The content of most apps is of poor quality from a learning point of view.
  • The apps only target very basic skills like letters and colors.
  • These apps are made for the most part, with very little, if any, input from specialists in development or education.
  • The features of the games or E-Books (the positive reinforcement tools ) used to engage your baby’s attention can have negative effects on your child’s benefits from the programs. They may interfere with your baby’s understanding of what the app is supposed to teach and, even more important, these features discourage his interaction with you while he is watching the program.

You are your baby and child’s most important teacher.

The interactions you have with your baby, toddler and child are crucial to his holistically healthy development.

When you interact with your baby you are:

  • Strengthening your emotional connections with each other.
  • Encouraging better overall health.
  • Stimulating his language development, learning abilities and social skills.
  • Training him to control his emotions.

As you can see, there is no app you can get for baby screen time that can ever do all that. You are the ‘secret sauce’ your baby needs to thrive.

I am not suggesting that you not allow baby screen time, just that you use it wisely and with a good plan.

Screen time can have some benefits for your baby:
  • The content can be educational( when you choose it well).
  • Certain programs can expose your baby and toddler to things that will broaden and enrich his learning such as a foreign language app or program.

The more proactive and conscious you are about planning baby screen time in your home, the more benefits and fewer side effects your baby will have.

Here are a few suggestions from Dr. Linda:

  • When your baby or toddler has screen time, make sure you are there with him, interacting with him and teaching him as he watches the program.
  • Choose the programs you allow during screen time carefully.
  • Make certain times and places ‘screen time’ free zones:   Make mealtimes ‘screen time’ free zones. Make a special time every day when you all sit together as a family and just be together to read, play, sing, or dance.
  • Make the times when you are caring for your baby (changing a diaper, giving him a bath) screen time free zones. Instead of having the TV on in the background play music and talk to your baby instead.
  • The more time you, as a parent, spend on your screens whether TVs, computers, tablets or phones, the less time you spend interacting with your baby, and, the more time your baby/child will spend on screen time as he gets older because he learns by watching you.
  • There is a nice tool from the American Academy of Pediatrics you may want to use to manage baby screen time in your home.

As always, I hope you enjoy this article.

I would love to hear how you, as a family, are using screen time and media in your household, so please post your comments below.

To your holistic health,

Ask Dr. Linda