Why we need to be more mindful about screens and children.
I recently posted about this topic on Instagram and I got incredible responses.
I know this is something more people need to hear about.
So I have a confession to make.
I was so fortunate when my first baby was born to had been surrounded by people who introduced me to the Montessori, Waldorf and RIE approach towards parenting and learning.
Otherwise, I wouldn’t be parenting the way I am today.
Parenting the way I parent is something I am extremely proud of.
I am not perfect in any way, but I feel really good about it most of the time.
All of these approaches are gentle and respectful. They are all about the child and how they are born with the ability to grow and learn. You just have to give them the right environment.
One of the common ‘right environment’ in all 3 approaches is – NO SCREENS.
I will give a brief overview of what all 3 approaches say about screens and afterwards I will give more detailed reasons why screens should be delayed and limited.
What each approach says about screens
Montessori – Maria Montessori was an advocate for young children moving their bodies. The schools do not teach with screens at all. Montessori advises to wait to give screens until age 3. Some even until age 6. That is because their brains are rapidly growing and they need to be in the real world exploring and problem solving on their own. Not glued to a screen.
RIE – Magda Gerber advised to delay screen time until children were 6 years old. Then closely monitoring afterwards. Children learn by connecting and interactions with their parents. By exploring and being able to move freely. There is nothing a television show will really teach a child. If anything, it negatively impacts them.
Waldorf – The Waldorf philosophy is the one who has the strictest rules. If your child attends a Waldorf school they do not want them to watch any type of screens at all. Not even at home. Far beyond when they are young. They believe it can negatively affect the health of children’s interactions and play.
Knowledge Is Power
The reason I bring this up is because I am so immersed in these environments that I forget not everyone is like that.
To the point that I got brought back to reality very recently.
We decided as a family to start going to a new church that everyone loves and has a great children’s program.
I dropped off both of my kids and off I went.
My daughter had never been dropped off like that before so after 20 minutes they asked me to come get her.
I was shocked by what I walked into.
They had the T.V. on for all of the toddlers and the babies. BABIES.
They were making them sit there and watch a story about the bible.
My jaw literally dropped.
I got my daughter Lucy out of there as fast as possible and decided I was going to bring it up next time I dropped her off.
To my disbelief, they said that ‘is just what it is.’ That is how they teach the children about the bible and that no parent have ever questioned it before because they just trust the process.
If Lucy wouldn’t have cried for us, I would’ve never known that she was given screens half of the time she was there.
Recommended screen time guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics
0-18 months: none. This just recently changed. It used to be until age 2.
18 months – 2 years: less than 1 hour co-watching with caregiver.
2- 5 years: 1 hour or less.
6-17 years: 2 hours or less.
At home I still follow the 0-2 years. There is literally no need to give children a screen until then.
Facetiming and your child getting glimpses does not count.
I understand parents sometimes need a minute. Especially when a child starts to walk. There are so many other creative ways to keep a child safe while you take a minute for yourself.
Many scientific studies on children and screens show what I have always believed to be true.
Screens have a negative impact on a child’s rapidly developing brain and eyes.
Which is contrary to the popular belief that educational shows can teach children what they learn simply from role modeling their caregivers, reading a book, or listening to songs.
Excessive screen time during infancy has been linked to delays in language, literacy, and self-regulation.
Studies show that increased screen time in young children is associated with:
- Decreased cognitive ability
- Impaired language development
- Autistic-like behavior such as hyperactivity, short attention span, irritability.
- Change of brain structure (negatively)
- Reduce melatonin production which leads to sleep problems
- Neurotransmitter deficiencies. Remember, neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that your body can’t live without. They enable the brain to provide a variety of functions.
- Eye fatigue: prolonged focus on screens lead to headaches, eye pain, feeling tired and losing interest in reading.
- Dry and irritated eyes from blinking significantly less. Which disrupts the healthy function of the tear film.
- Risk of myopia: nearsightedness
What We Can Do At Home
Keep screens at a minimum.
If at times you have to rely on it more, make it the exception, not the rule. Then follow it by reducing the other hours your child watches a screen to make up for it.
Do they really need an iPad? Why not just stick to watching T.V. as far away as possible.
Save the iPad for when traveling. Make it special.
Make meal times with no screens an absolute priority.
Keep screens away from bedrooms. Bedrooms should be for sleeping.
When going out to a restaurant, mentally prepare that you will probably have to find ways to entertain your child.
Be an advocate for your child. They do not need to watch T.V. at church, at the dentist, with babysitters. Especially not babysitters. You are paying them to play with your child and to keep them safe. If these babysitters can’t handle it, then find someone new.
The school one is a tricky one. I am lucky that my school prioritizes the child and no screens. Otherwise I would probably be emailing the administrators a lot or finding a different school.
When you are in the presence of your child, try to limit your screen time. Those texts and calls can wait.
Do you need the T.V. on all day? There is really no point to having the T.V. on as background noise. I have never understood this one. At my house I will make a serious exception during football season. With boundaries of course. It is not an all day affair that is for sure.
When you do give screens, do it in the afternoon. The morning is when they are full of energy and their brains are ready to learn. They don’t need to become zombies as soon as they wake up.
I am pretty strict when it comes to screens because I do believe we need more boundaries and rules with screens and children. They need to learn about balance and as long as they are little we get to protect their health.
Are you ready to start living your life differently?
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What are your thoughts on screens and children?
What do you do at home that works really well?
Help and spread the word. Share this blog post with someone you love.
I just came back from California and had some great conversations with incredible parents. They were giving me all the tips and tricks on how to raise teenagers.
One of my key takeaways was about being the host. You want to keep your children at your house.
That way you keep them close and they do not get into trouble. Especially during those times that they are learning about tricky subjects.
Which also got us into the conversation about sleepovers. Too many things happen during sleepovers. You want them at your house or none at all.
What are your thoughts on this?
One of my strengths is that I always prepare until the end. I want to know what my end goal is so that I plan accordingly. I also want to be mentally prepared for when things happen so they do not catch me off guard.
This is how I parent. I am setting up a foundation now because I know it will set them up for success in their adult years. So naturally I am always curious about different ways of parenting and the difference phases.
This is the beauty of meeting new people. Instead of gossiping or asking about their purchases, why not ask them about their life story. What has made them successful as parents. Everyone has a story to tell.
See you next time!
Alejandra at Living Well Co.
Donna Hermawati, Farid Agung Rahmadi, Tanjung Ayu Sumekar, and Tri Indah Winarni (2018). Early electronic screen exposure and autistic-like symptoms. doi: 10.5582/irdr.2018.01007
Joshua Foreman, Arief Tjitra Salim, Anitha Praveen, Dwight Fonseka, Daniel Shu Wei Ting, Prof Ming Guang Heng (2021). Association between digital smart device use and myopia: a systematic review and meta-analysis. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S2589-7500(21)00135-7