Talking Screen Time, Baby
There are new ‘Media Use Guidelines’ announced by the American Academy of Pediatrics, updating their last 2011 statement that advised against screen time for under-2s. The new plan recommends that families develop a ‘Media Use Plan’ that includes limiting access during mealtimes and imposing bedtime curfews on devices — and recommending that pediatricians ask about media use during well-baby visits.
Everybody seems to have an opinion on screen time, though there is limited data on the subject when it comes to smartphones and tablets. Most parents seem to rely on a mix of anecdotal evidence when deciding how much is enough. That and the feeling in their gut. Scientists, educators and parents themselves are paying close attention as the habits of babies and toddlers change dramatically from one generation to the next, thanks in part to the expanding role and presence of technological tools.
So is there such a thing as ‘positive screen time’ for babies under two? Georgene Troseth, a developmental psychologist at Vanderbilt University argues that active screen time — like Skype and FaceTime– can actually be educational as babies seem able to engage with the person on the screen, and learn from them.
What’s not recommended for babies under two? Passive screen time: watching movies or television shows — or endless youtube videos. There’s little evidence as to whether ‘educational’ apps geared to babies and toddlers have a positive effect, or if they’re simply a welcome distraction in restaurants and airplanes.
And because the research isn’t clear on whether familiarizing our kids with the latest tech will lead to learning and insight for the kids themselves, the current recommendation is moderation.
Dr. Ari Brown of the American Academy of Pediatrics says, “If you’re planning on using interactive media with your child, use it with your child. Sit down with your child and engage with them because that’s going to be more valuable than anything.”
You can hear more from Drs. Troseth and Brown on this ‘All Tech Considered’ report from NPR.