By Stephanie Olson

It is easy for parents to stop their baby from crying or being fussy by turning on their favorite show to watch on YouTube. This is normalized in society today, but is it detrimental to the baby’s development? Too much screen time at such a young age can affect the infants brain development and affect their ability to stay focused. Infants should learn from the environment around them and interactions with their caregivers, not constantly watching something on a screen.

Human interaction is what babies will learn the most from. According to www.Unicef.org, “For children to be successful, they need to learn how to concentrate and focus. That ability starts to develop during their earliest years when their brains are more sensitive to the environments around them.” It is important for parents to interact with their child as much as possible in the early years of their life because their brain develops rapidly. It is okay for parents to have screen time with their child, but not as much as actual human interaction.

It is difficult for babies that get too much screen time to read emotions and expressions on people’s faces because they are so accustomed to screen time that they aren’t able to comprehend real human emotions. It is even said that too much screen time can inhibit young ones to have empathy in the future since they aren’t receiving much social interaction with their caregivers at such an early age. Empathy requires one to have social skills and the ability to read someone’s emotions based on their facial expressions. If babies are not exposed to that at an early age, then this is something they will lack in their life once they grow up.

It is easy for someone like me to say that caregivers should try to limit the amount of screen time they provide for their child because I don’t have kids myself. I can empathize with them and understand it must be extremely difficult to do any normal activity with kids constantly needing every single second of attention on them, which is why I’d like to help with some alternatives or even solutions that caregivers could use to help keep their children busy. There was a time when screens weren’t so readily available for parents to use when their kids were being fussy or having a meltdown, so I’d like to talk more about what methods were used at that time.

Tips for parents who use screen time frequently:

  • Interact with the child while they are watching a show on the screen. By speaking about the characters or things in the show and singing along with the show as well, so the child is engaging with what they are watching.
  • Read books with young children. Even though a young child may not fully comprehend the story, it is still beneficial for them to see the pictures and words. Plus, the caregiver reading to them will also help them stay focused.
  • Get a baby play mat with interactive toys and play music. It could be a good idea to get a mat where the baby can lay down and play with all the different toys connected to the mat, like a little jungle gym. You can also play some music, so that the baby will be entertained with baby shark or something similar.

Conversation Starters:

  1. What is one way your parents used to keep you entertained as a child, besides screens? Was it effective?
  2. Are there any toys or other types of entertainment you can think of to keep babies busy?
  3. How often do you think infants should be exposed to screen time, why?
  4. Do you think children under the age of 2 should be exposed to any type of screens?
  5. How do you think screen time affects your life as an adult today?
  6. How do you feel about kids who have their own iPad and take them everywhere with them, like restaurants?

Resources:


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