“Turn off the TV.” No one likes to be told what to do, but sometimes if we can understand why someone is asking us to do something - we might come to the same conclusion.

We know that a child’s brain undergoes an amazing period of development from birth to three—producing more than a million neural connections each second. A million neural connections each second! Wow! We know that this will set the foundation for learning and that what happens in those first three years can impact a child in a positive or negative way - for life.

While the recommendations on screen time are often varied, controversial and seem to change often - we as providers need to take a look at what we know, share it with families and support families to make an informed decision.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no television (or screen media such as computer games, videos or DVDs) for children under 2. Parents holding babies and talking to them is the most important thing that we can do. Infants learn best from interactive, hands-on experiences - touching, feeling, shaking, stacking, problem solving - with people that they care about.

What if the TV is on in the background? High exposure to background television is linked to poorer attention and poorer executive functioning. These constant interruptions and distractions created by television background have been shown to be affecting brain development. There is also a known correlation between a significant decrease in verbal and social interactions between adults and children as adults become more and more engaged with their own screens.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limits on screen use for preschool children ages 2 to 5 of no more than 1-2 hours per day of high-quality programming. Parents can think of screens like they think about giving junk food to their kids: “In small doses, it's OK, but in excess, it has consequences." When you think about children having naps and sleeping longer hours, you certainly want them to be engaged more with people, with you and with objects that they can manipulate than with a screen.

Studies have shown that higher screen time viewing at 2 and 3 years of age is associated with children's delays in meeting developmental milestones at 3 and 5 years of age, respectively. When used in excess, screen time can have long term consequences for children's development.

How we use screen time and how many hours we use screen time matters and may matter for the rest of a child’s life.

Below are a few resources that providers may share with families. Families and providers cannot make a good decision if they are not informed. That’s where you come in!

Young Children and Screens: Putting Parents in the Driver's Seat

Screen Sense FAQ Partnering with Parents and Teachers/Childcare Providers


Tags: screen time , TV , electronic devices , AAP

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