As an overly conscious parent, I often ponder if I’m doing more harm to my children than good. You’ve likely been here. It’s been a busy day at work; you’re heading home, but you're stuck in traffic for too long. The person beside you cuts you off and you shout a few expletives before you know it. Now, the rest of the evening you aren’t going to be that ray of sunshine you’d hoped. Prior to getting home, you try to push the clouds away and shine at least a little, but it’s time to start dinner, check homework, make sure the kids shower, set out tomorrow’s clothes, read a story, tuck them in, tuck them in again, and if your kids are like mine, tuck them in for the third or fourth time while threatening them with the removal of their most favorite activity or toy.
Here lies the dilemma. With all the above needing to be done, it’s tempting to turn the television on or allow your child to get lost in the screen of an iPad or similar device. While this eases our parenting burden and gives us some much needed quiet time to get things done, we should be cognizant of how is it affecting our children.
Regardless of how hard you try, this is probably an inescapable reality. The temptation is just too great, and the quietness is amazing. According to the US Department of Human and Health Services, on average, kids spend approximately 7 hours a day in front of some type of electronic device. These may be computers, tablets, smartphones, or televisions. While many of these have widely accepted educational benefits, too much could be hindering cognitive development.
For now, we don’t want to get too technical or scientific, but here is the gist. The main concern and argument against leaving young child in front of a screen is the possibility of hindering their ability to focus and concentrate and, their desire to gravitate to instant gratification. This is due to the dopamine that’s released in the brain from the stimuli. The critical age, birth to three years old, is a time of rapid change for the brain. During this time, many of the foundations will be laid for future years. It sounds like a catch-22 doesn’t it? You want to give your child an academic and developmental advantage by letting them use educational games or apps, but then you also hear that doing so could hinder their future abilities. What do you do? As a parent, you have to do what you feel is best. As always, we write to help inform you. We never want to tell you what to do, only suggest healthy alternatives.
Below, we listed our recommendations for screen time and our favorite apps.
Infant to 18 months - No screen time.
2 to 5 years - 1 hour per day
6 and older - 2 - 3 hours a day maximum
Engaged Academics Favorite Apps: