As we all know, no screen time at all is the ideal for little ones. But also as most families know, this is a bit impossible these days unless you throw your TV out the window and keep your mobiles, tablets and computers on lock down.
But the telly isn’t really as evil as it is made out to be – provided that it doesn’t overtake your life, and become your child’s forever baby sitter.
SCREEN TIME: YAY OR NAY?
The American Academy of Pediatrics amended its zero screen time till two years old rule recently, and the new recommendations say a little bit of TV is okay after 18 months of age. They have shifted the focus more to WHAT is on the screen to WHO else is in the room. Meaning that you can actually use the TV as an educational tool – like a book. What you should NOT do is to leave the baby alone with the TV as entertainment for hours on that – that is unhealthy and detrimental. The new AAP guideline has changed from “avoid all screens under age 2” to “avoid solo media use in this age group.” That said, for the age group 2-5, the ideal amount of screen time remains just ONE hour. (yeah, pretty difficult, I know!)
I am in no way stating that TV is the greatest gift to children or is essential. This link discusses some of the negatives associated with screen time.
With limits, and a control of what is being viewed, screen time MAY even have some positive redeeming qualities:
- It will help build a proper and positive relationship with the media early on
- Watching TV may help in teaching the child how to pronounce words, and improve vocabulary
- It may help the child in understanding aspects of life – how to cope with their feelings, how to share, potty training or even how to brush their teeth.
- Possibly, with the right shows, it may inspire them to be more kind, and empathetic and inclusive
- It may be a fun family bonding activity to watch your fav shows together, and then result in enriching conversations about what was on the screen
PS – please note that I said it “may”, not that it definitely will. The impact depends on variable factors: what they are watching and how you are helping your child get the most out of it.
The AAP recommends that parents and caregivers develop a family media plan that takes into account the health, education and entertainment needs of each child as well as the whole family.
SCREEN TIME: WHAT TO WATCH?
What the child is watching is extremely important. High quality programming is nonnegotiable.
The following is a list of our top picks, and what we love to watch as a family. Some are more educational and informative, while others are more entertaining. We, as a family, hope we are able to strike some balance!
Screen Time: Our Picks: Daniel Tiger’ Neighborhood
We love Danny! And we love the show. This show shows the life of little Daniel Tiger, and his family and friends and their everyday situations. According to Wikipedia, “two 11-minute segments are linked by a common socio-emotional theme, such as disappointment and sadness or anger, or being thankful and appreciative. The theme also uses a musical motif phrase, which the show calls “strategy songs”, to reinforce the theme and help children remember the life lessons.”
We love it because it is easy to relate to, and it is both informative and educational. Some of the episodes explain how to deal with anger, and being sad. One of my faves focus on what happens when Daniel’s little sister come home.
Online streaming: http://pbskids.org/daniel/videos/
YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDqgSnRMGVx3dP4sn3ATZMA
Screen Time: Our Picks: Paw Patrol
These dogs are almost family to us now! “No job’s too big, no pup’s too small”. The pack of friendly pups (Chase, Marshall, Zuma, Rocky, Sky, Rubble and sometimes Everest, Tracker and Robo Dog) and their manager Rider doing missions. The underlying theme (if you are looking for one) remains teamwork and friendships, and the importance of each one doing their role. The honest truth – between you and me – I love it too. I think I am as big a fan of these cute pups as my son!
Online Streaming: http://www.nickjr.tv/paw-patrol/
Screen Time: Our Picks: Jalebi Street
This is fairly new, and is primarily targeted at the Indian sub-continent. But a lot of it does have universal values portrayed as well. It tell ths story of the kids living on Jalebi Street. There is Bubble Kapoor, Bunny Singh, Maddy, Naaz and Div – a fun mix of boys and girls from all different arts of India, with different religions, languages, cultures and traditions. Over the course of each episode, they explore either a value like kindness or empathy, or something relevant to their religion like Christmas celebrations, or Ramadan and Eid, or Diwali or topics related to India itself like Independence Day and clothes or dishes of India. If you are a part of the Indian diaspora, or even an Indian residing in India, this is an incredible way to introduce Indian culture to your littles. Each capsule sized 5-minute episode is a lesson.
Online Streaming: http://jalebistreet.com/
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkSfUTwJHoXPPLfhg3yU_rg
Screen Time: Our Picks: Dora The Explorer
Who doesn’t like an adventure? In this series, you join little Latina girl, Dora and her best friend, Boots the monkey as they complete each mission. What I love about Dora is that it is interactive. They ask the child questions and give time to answer. Of course the littles don’t realize their answers are not being heard but it does teach them to think and respond. And a lot of the questions are educational in nature: it often relates to numbers, alphabets, shapes, colors and other simple topics like that.
Online Streaming: http://www.nickjr.tv/dora-the-explorer/
Screen Time: Our Picks: Sesame Street
I LOVE THEM as do most people in our generation, and these muppets are so entertaining and educational that even AAP recommends them. What’s not to love? And in case it was not awesome enough, they are putting special emphasis on inclusivity. People or creatures of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities, gender and sexual orientation are represented so wonderfully. According to this Washington Post piece, an academic study has actually proven that Sesame Street actually delivered educational benefits to millions of children. Now what’s not to like about that?
Youtube Link: https://www.youtube.com/sesamestreet
Screen Time: Our Pics: Special mentions:
Go Diego, Go: This is one for animal lovers. Diego and his sister Alicia are animal rescuers. And they are also Dora’s cousins. In each episode, Diego helps kids learn about a particular animal and explains a lot about that animal.
Bubble Guppies: A little tale about a school of pre-schooling mer-people! It has simple lessons in math, and shapes, and sizes and colors. I particularly loved the episode where Molly gets a baby sibling!
Handy Manny: Manny and his talking tools help repair things around his town. It highlights how each one has a special role to play, and why working together as a team is important.
Sofia the First: Sofia became a princess overnight, when her mom married the King. But regardless of her stature, she remains a simpe girl at heart – teaching values of kindness, of sharing, of being compassionate and caring to all around her.
On the opposite end of the spectrum: I absolutely cannot stand Masha and the Bear and Max and Ruby. I find that both Masha and Ruby are big bullies and self-centered. I am also told that Calilou is not ideal either.
SCREEN TIME: HANDHELD DEVICES
As for using a tablet or phone, this is NOT recommended, because of the ease of access, and lack of control we can have while the device is in the child’s hands. I would also worry about a random call to the boss!
But, we are guilty of using a tab on our travels, and our phone while we are out dining. I know, I know – not the best thing to do – but hey, momma and dada deserve a break and want to eat in peace at the restaurant! So yeah!
YouTube is a real savior at such times, and apart from the many shows mentioned above, some of our fave picks include:
Dave and Ava – They are amazing and so wonderfully imaginative. Kudos to the creators. The vibrant colors and settings, and how they sing the rhymes. We love it! Our boy has kinda grown out of it, but I still love it!
Busy Beavers – This is a good tool to learn shapes, and numbers, and colors and the like. Some interesting almost interactive shows. The beaver and his friends do have a way with keeping your attention.
Bob The Train – The channel is actually called Kids TV, and Bob is our go-to train. He sings the rhymes, and animal sounds, and types of vehicles, and shapes, and colors, and numbers and more.
These are what we love. What about you?
PPS – I do wish we had more will power to make my boy watch less. On some days, it does seem like way too much. But hopefully, sooner rather than later, we’ll be able to find our balance!