It seems like a new study is released on kids and screentime daily – It’s terrible! It’s even more terrible! Oh, just kidding, it’s actually great! – which can leave you feeling like you have to log extra screentime for yourself just to keep up with it all.
Well, you don’t.
Staying up on the news (and processing it in a measured way) is part of Alexandria Abramian’s job: She’s the content director at Forcefield, a software/app that gives parents the ability to monitor and control their kids’ activity on devices. It lets parents set schedules (shut it down at a certain time), filters (makes only certain apps accessible), and supervision (any photo they share sends a copy to you), making sure that your child doesn’t stumble upon porn (9 out of 10 kids do. BLECH!). Think Big Brother in the best way.
Read on for her advice on creating sane and realistic screentime rules for your family – and the unexpected thing you actually should be worrying about.
DON’T Start Out Feeling Like A Failure
The American Academy of Pediatrics says no screentime at all under 2, which often makes parents feel like if they’re not adhering to that, they’ve already blown it. The truth is, we still don’t know how screentime impacts the brain in early infancy, so it’s best to err on the side of less, but a lot of research is suggesting a more nuanced approach. Setting guidelines for what kind and how much screentime is way more helpful than feeling wracked with guilt because you let your baby watch a cat video while you peed.
DO Plan For Small Blocks Of Time
For the under-2 set, try to limit screentime to 15-minute chunks, maybe two of those sessions a day, while you’re making dinner or getting ready in the morning.
DON’T Let Passive Screentime Lead
As in plopping the kids in front of a show (you know, like we did as kids.) That behavior is more often associated with negative impacts like lower brain function. New research is suggesting that iPad time may be better than TV time if the content is educational and interactive.
DO Choose Those Interactive Apps Carefully
So many apps come to market labeled as educational. Forcefield vets them with kids, parents, and educators to make sure they’re actually following through, and they’re constantly updating their library. Some of Alexandria’s favorite apps and developers: BusyShapes, Nosy Crow, Duck Duck Moose, Little Digits, and Drawnimal.
DON’T Leave The TV On In The Background
It’s associated with lower language acquisition and shorter attention spans. And often causes fewer child-parent interactions. Avoid it!
DO Be Mindful Of The Rabbithole
Kids love YouTube, but it can be easy to accidently discover weird, non-kid-friendly content. And some companies claiming to be YouTube for kids are filled with ads. Alexandria suggests Nat Geo Kids or Ellie’s TV for great videos, no ads, and a more controlled system.
DON’T Get Stuck On Your Device (This One Is A Biggie)
The research coming out about “distracted parenting” is pretty bad. They’re finding a direct link between parents who are consumed by their phones and poor behavior in kids. It makes a lot of sense – if a child is unable to get the parent’s attention, they’ll do it any way they can, including poor behavior. Another study links the number of times people check their email while they’re with their kids with an increasing amount of cortisol (aka the stress hormone) in the body. In other words, check yourself.
DO Let Family Photos & Videos Work For You
Watching family videos on your phone is both meaningful and stimulating for babies and kids. It’s a great way to fill a chunk of time when you need to accomplish something – so create a slideshow of photos and videos of the family for your little one to watch. Littles love it, and the brain stimulation is full tilt.
DO Let Actual People Be Your Virtual Babysitters
Here’s a genius lifehack: Skype and FaceTime do NOT count as screentime, as it’s very close to being the same neurological experience as an in-person interaction. The brain is fully activated and language acquisition is happening as if the person is actually there. This is good news for parents on so many levels because you can schedule it when you really need it – set up a regular hang out with the grandparents, so you can do your thing without feeling guilty.