The Benefits for Young Children of Screen Freedom

Many parents find themselves relying on screens to help contain busy households, more so than most would like to admit. Everyone has the best intentions for their toddler and Pre K age children and many people include limited screen time as part of those intentions, but life gets busy, kids get more demanding each year, and screens are an easy solution so that parents can answer those work emails, cook dinner, even just have a moment of relative calm.

However, statistics show that most kids are exposed to four hours a day of screens, teens, even more, considering that many teens view television while also using their phones or scrolling on a laptop at the same time. Parents even give tablets to infants and babies to engage with.  Adults, of course, find themselves facing screens much of the time as well. This wasn’t common until a dozen years ago and now everyone seems to be attached to screens most all the time.

Screen time includes television, computers, smartphones and tablets. It can be television programs, movies, games, surfing the internet, or even reading the news or doing homework. Yes, some of this is necessary, but most of it isn’t! What’s worse is that though we think we can multitask and pay attention to the living people around us while also watching tv or playing on phones, we are actually not really paying attention to either. Kids of child care age are watching, listening, and emulating the adults they love and respect at all times, so consider, is this behavior something a child should emulate? Should we expect the next generation to grow up even more screen-obsessed than the one before?

Screen Freedom isn’t an all-or-nothing concept. Start with small compromises, such as no phones at the dinner table. Once it has become a habit, expand the goal to take one day a week without television or video games. Then try having screen-free weekends or even whole weeks. Make the screen free time fun and interesting, replace phone games with board games, replace video games with going outside, replace e-readers with books, replace tv time with art time or cooking together time, or playing outside time, like kids used to do!

Screens have been shown in several studies to reduce learning retention, attention span, reading comprehension and more. Children who spend a lot of time with screens, including in school, sometimes have trouble meeting and relating to new people, and maintaining a conversation. While the science on all the effects of screens on the developing brain is still forthcoming, as it is something of a new phenomenon, there is no doubt that less screen time is a good thing. Screen time has replaced so many parts of childhood, it can only be a positive to return to the way things were before phones, tablets, and laptops.

One thing is certain: young children including babies, toddlers and preschoolers are learning like sponges, soaking up everything they experience. They want to be just like us, so we must be conscious of the examples we set for them; at home, in the car, and at school.

This article is part of a child health and wellness series posted for the benefit of parents by Prime Time Early Learning Centers.  Prime Time is a family owned child care company that provides Infant Care, After Care, PreK, and Summer Camp programs for children from six weeks to 10 years of age in Paramus, Edgewater, Hoboken and East Rutherford New Jersey, and in Middletown (Wallkill) and Farmingdale (Babylon) New York.  See what parents have to say about their experience with Prime Time Early Learning Centers on Google and Yelp!

Prime Time serves families in zip codes:  10940, 12589, 07652 ,07653, 07630, 07649, 07450, 07451, 07020, 07024, 07010, 07047, 07030, 07086, 07307, 07302, 07310, 07306, 07071, 07073, 07094, 07072, 07074, 07094, 07070  07071, 11735, 11737, 11704, 11703, 11747 .