When My Love and I were pregnant with Bunny, we talked about screen time and how we would handle it. I was adamant that Bunny would have ZERO screen time under the age of two. I was fortunate to have worked for an amazing nanny family who also believed in zero screen time for their children. They had a two year old and a newborn. I worked with this particular family for about 18 months. The only time the children every watched t.v. was when they were sick, not very often. In the beginning I did find it difficult as I was used to children being able to watch some t.v. I was forced to interact with the children all day long and to find other ways to entertain them that did not include the t.v. Slowly but surely we started having more fun than I had ever had with children before. We went to parks, explored many different parks, we went to play places, beaches, amusement parks and more. Before long it became second nature to leave the t.v. off, which has made it so incredibly easy to not turn the t.v. on in my own home.
Why is it important to limit or do away with screen time for children, especially those under the age of two? It is important because, “studies have shown that excessive media use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity.”
But my baby LOVES to stare at my computer/phone/t.v! Infants may stare at the bright colors and motion on a screen, but their brains are incapable of making sense or meaning out of all those bizarre pictures. It takes 2 full years for a baby’s brain to develop to the point where the symbols on a screen come to represent their equivalents in the real world.
To me, the main reason I don’t want Bunny to have any screen time (iPad, iPhone, computer, video games or t.v.) is because of a few reasons. First, there are SO many other things Bunny could be doing, more productive things that will help her learn. Bunny loves to play with play dough, color, play with puzzles, go outside, the list goes on and on. I feel like Bunny is so smart at this age (all children are, they are sponges) and there are so many things life can teach her if she is actually living it. Second, most of the screen time activities are done alone and do not encourage Bunny to be social. I do not want to plop Bunny in front of the t.v. or iPad and walk away. Are there times where this would be so incredibly helpful? Of course! When I need to cook dinner, or do laundry, or any of the other activities that need to be done throughout the day. It would be nice to have Bunny captivated for an hour or two so I could get things done. Third, I want Bunny to learn good, healthy habits when she is young. This is a hard thing to do. It means not only teaching Bunny good habits, but doing these good habits myself. My Love and I do not often watch t.v. The t.v. is never on in the background in our house. When I feel the need for background noise, I turn on some music. Disney music, children’s music, music that is appropriate for Bunny to listen to. I don’t want Bunny to think sitting in front of the t.v. for hours every night is something she should do. I completely 100% used to do that. There are times when I need to unwind and I watch t.v. But, in my opinion, my infant or toddler doesn’t need to unwind and doesn’t receive the same benefit (or lack thereof) from junk t.v.
Bunny did get to watch some t.v. when she was sick for a few days, around 23 months old. The t.v. she was allowed to watch is Animal Planet and Planet Earth. Bunny is now 2 years old and can watch t.v. occasionally. She will only sit and watch for 5-10 minutes and then she is done. What I love about the t.v. she watches is that it is interactive. My Love and I sit with Bunny and talk about what we are watching. The t.v. Bunny watches does not have rapid scene changes or bright flashes. It is very calm and slow paced.
Every family is different and every parent makes the best choice they can. I know sometimes it is difficult to keep the t.v. off but for our family it is the choice we have made.