Tummy Time to Screen Time

In these modern times, screens are everywhere: in our homes, our cars, restaurants, gas pumps—even in our pockets! It’s unrealistic to expect parents to prevent their babies and toddlers from ever looking at a screen, but the reality is that one-third of babies are watching TV or looking at digital devices for 90 minutes or more on a daily basis. Sure, turning on the TV or handing over a mobile phone can seem like the fastest fix for a busy parent with a grumpy child, but could all this screen time have a negative effect on such young children?

The short answer is…

Yes. At all ages, increased screen time is linked to a host of negative factors, including:

  • Childhood obesity
  • Poor eating habits
  • Poor sleep habits and sleep disturbance
  • Delayed language development
  • Delayed learning
  • Lower achievement in school
  • Negative attitudes and aggression
  • Psychological problems like depression, hyperactivity and difficulty making friends

It’s worse for babies

It’s not surprising that any negative effects from screen time would be even worse for our youngest viewers, when you think about how quickly their brains are developing—small children are like sponges, soaking up information at a rapid pace. They learn best when someone interacts directly with them, and videos are typically too brightly colored and people on them talk too fast for a baby to make any sense of them.

How much is too much?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for babies up to 18 months, other than video chatting with friends and family, and no more than one hour of daily screen time for children up to age 5. Parents of older children should choose high-quality programming and online content and watch it along with their children. Designate screen-free family time and screen-free zones (like the family dinner table) to encourage more face-to-face interaction. Try to avoid having the television on in the background unless you are actively watching.