Time to turn it off
Friends, I think you should all know that I am a tv/screen nazi. My children think I am quite mean, but I do not allow them to watch much tv at all. They don’t get a lot of screen time on the computer, either. No apps on the phone. No ipad. And while I realize they are falling behind in their computer-ese, I think their brain development is far more important.
I’ve said it before: Every parent wants what is best for their child. Every parent thinks their child is the smartest and has the most potential. Every parent, every once in a while, also wants a 15-minute break from the noise that comes with kids, and using a technological babysitter (i.e. the tv or a computer game) is as easy a solution as any other. But. So is reading a book, or playing with legos. Or going outside to run and play (and continue being loud). Or coloring and drawing. And the benefits of these non-tv options are many: getting exercise, potentially learning something, creating art, using their imagination to make or build something. Even if your kid draws the same alien/battlefield/bombing airplane scene every single time (mine are in a bit of a rut just now), they are using and developing fine motor skills.
I’m not saying there are no benefits from a good educational game, software program, or television show. But I think the negatives outweigh the positives. Not only is your child just sitting there, not getting any movement time, but they are also not developing the higher levels of their brain. Television doesn’t require any feedback whatsoever. The child doesn’t have to actively do anything; they just sit there passively, and watch. The brain shifts into a different, more sedate and primitive mode. There is no learning going on, except perhaps learning how to sit and not physically interact with the world.
There are many books and articles available on the negative effect of screen time on children, on their brain development and on their understanding of how the world works. I have read a number of them. I think they are on to something.
Now, let’s be real here: there is a time and place for tech-sitting. I have certainly used my fair share of iTouch help when in doctor’s offices. But I also bring along a load of coloring books, stickers and wikistix, because I know what I am comfortable with. If I want to have an actual conversation with a doctor (or any other adult that I know has a limited amount of time so constant interruptions aren’t going to be an option), then I whip out the Secret Weapon. This is what I believe, so this is how we live. Other parents are not going to be this anti-TV. And that’s ok. What’s important is to educate yourself on what info is out there on kids and screen time, and develop your own family plan. You need tv-assist to get dinner on the table? Go for it. You need just 5 minutes to take a shower and be in the bathroom by yourself for once? Please feel free. Kids need meaningful interactions with the family, yes, but mama also need to be able to bathe, right? I can’t tell you how many times I have taken a shower with a kid perched on the potty, chattering away about god only knows what; meanwhile, I am wishing that I had just for once turned on Sesame Street or something else moderately educational. But, alas, no.
Do your own research. Read some articles and make an informed decision about what works for you and your family.
Below is a link to a good article about technology and children. I also loved and learned a lot from Stop Teaching our Kids to Kill, by D. Grossman and G. Degaetano.