Tag Archives: screen time

Screen Time Replacing Playtime?

screentime-classroomWith the colder temperatures looming still over our area, we are spending less time outside playing and more time inside trying to find ways to have fun. I have seen parents (and some teachers) put smartphones and tablets out as an alternative to playing games and bundling up for some outdoor fun. I know that life is busy and parents have limited free time, but are large amounts of time spent on devices really good for the kids in our program?

Here are some numbers from a parent survey sent out by Common Sense Media:

  • 98 percent of homes with children now have a mobile device such as a tablet or smartphone
  • 42 percent of young children now have their very own tablet device — up from 7 percent four years ago and less than 1 percent in 2011.
  • Nearly half, 49 percent, of children 8 or under “often or sometimes” use screens in the hour before bedtime, which experts say is bad for sleep habits.
  • 42 percent of parents say the TV is on “always” or “most of the time” in their home, whether anyone is watching or not. Research has shown this so-called “background TV” reduces parent-child interaction, which in turn can hurt language development.

With all of the exposure to technology, I noticed the above statistics when I was in my program.  Children learn best through play with objects and hands-on activities. Exposure to new things makes learning more fun and causes cognitive development, language skills to blossom, and social-emotional development to occur! Interactions mean so much more with people! We can use this knowledge to change the way we use technology in our programs and at home.

Schofield Clark at the University of Denver who has done studies on media and the effects of disadvantaged youth suggests, “making interactions intentional and meaningful by the way you can spend the time: showing a kid how to use a laptop, how to do Internet research, picking out highly rated educational apps or steering a child toward programs with positive messages.” Set aside a block of time each day to make sure that a child gets interactions with adults and peers.  Check out a great blog post from 4C Quality Programs Specialist Jenn Malicoat for more ideas to do inside!

Make the moments count. Spend more time interacting with one another playing with and using materials to enrich and nurture learning, as it is better for everyone in the long run.

Unplug Your Summer!

This is the first summer that my children have not attended some kind of camp during their summer break from school. The lesson I’ve learned? TV is evil!

I am taking measures in my home to decrease screen time for my children, but playing outside is apparently the worst suggestion I can make for how they ought to be spending their time! All I hear is how hot it is and that there is nothing to do, but for years both of my children participated in summer camps where they were outside 100 percent of the time sweating their brains out, playing in creeks, building forts and playing games, all the while getting extremely dirty. I could go on and on about the stories they would come home with when I asked them, “So, what did you do today?”

But when I ask that same question these days the answer seems to revolve around a TV character or what new game they found online or which level they finally made it to on their DS. And I have to ask myself, what about the kids out there that spend their summer plugged in because that is the only child care their parents can afford? Or if the child care program they attend while their parents are at work only takes children outside for 15 or 20 minutes per day (if that) to play on the same swing set they have been playing on for years?

Despite the fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends absolutely no screen time for children under two due to language delays, this just isn’t the reality in many homes and child care programs. According to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, 40 percent of infants are regular viewers of screen media, and preschoolers spend on average 32 hours a week with screen media. The American Academy of Pediatrics also states that school age children shouldn’t be exposed to more than two hours of total screen time per day, but that’s obviously not the case for many children, including mine recently! So, what can we do differently?

While parents can set guidelines for screen time in the home (I am making my children “earn” their TV time by completing chores and spending some much-needed time outside), I would encourage child care programs to avoid TV completely.  Children are almost certainly getting some of their screen time at home after they leave our programs, and we have the opportunity during the day to give them new experiences and enrich their lives. I am hard pressed to find something that is more worthwhile on the TV than in real life! The rewards that come from sitting down with a child and reading a book together, playing a game or just talking with them are endless. They feel nurtured, special and are being exposed to new vocabulary. You just can’t replicate that with a screen!