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Are Screens Rotting (Or Enriching?) My Toddler's Brain? 5 Things to Know about Screens from the AAP

AAP Parent tips

vintage television set

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) previously recommended no screen time for children under two years old. Recently, however the AAP updated the guidelines for infant and toddler screen time. Here’s what you need to know:

#1: Still No Screen Time for Infants Younger than 18 Months: the reasoning for this is complex, but it comes down to parent-and-child interaction. Infants’ brains are developing rapidly and play time with mom and dad, eye contact, songs, games, and touch help establish neural connections and foster healthy development. A digital babysitter before a child is 18 months of age is not recommended and could actually negatively affect cognitive development.

  • #2: . . . With One Exception: FaceTime or Video calling--along with parents--is okay before 18 months. This screen-use is effectively a conversation (good for infant development) that happens to be on a screen.

  • #3: Limited Screens Can Be Healthy for Children Between 18-24 Months, With Conditions: (a) screen time is effectively parent time, with parents engaging with the show and the toddler AND (b) the shows viewed are quality programming (think Sesame Street or other PBS shows).

  • #4: Ages 2
  • -5
  •  Should Only Have One Hour of Screen Time per Day: If your get-through-the-winter strategy is to put on a Disney movie marathon, you might want to re-strategize.

  • #5: Screens Are a Big Part of Life. Don’t Panic. Just Engage with Your Child: Take a deep breath. Morning sickness happens and you might need to bust out “Frozen” for a few days. But a digital babysitter day-in-day-out? Not the best for your child. The takeaway here is that screens deprive children of conversation, interaction, imagination, and YOU. They can also over-stimulate a child’s young brain. Screens play an important role, but YOU are the most important entertainment, distraction, friend, role model, and teacher that your child has--don’t let screens steal that precious time from you.

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