The summer months can be filled with many great outdoor adventures; unfortunately there has been a significant increase of childhood obesity and more children are spending more time in front of the TV, computer, game device or tablet. Let’s uncover a few myths of screen time for young children!
As long as the content is educational, it’s good for children.
Research shows children don’t always learn what program creators intend; sometime they actually learn the opposite. Parents will sometimes think that if a program is produced by an educational station or conveys a positive message, that it is safe. However, the way the information is presented and processed by the child can affect the actual outcome; just because a character uses a rich vocabulary, does not mean the child understands that vocabulary. Designers of TV shows, movies or games do not always understand how children are going to interpret, recall and learn from what they are seeing or hearing.
The TV may be on in the background, but my children aren’t affected.
Research shows that having the TV on in the background may be impacting your child more than you think. Just because a child isn’t directly looking at the screen while they play doesn’t mean that it is not distracting their play. A study was done in 2008 that showed children who had a TV on in the background bopped around from toy to toy, spending less time engaged in one activity for very long. Having a TV on means that noises, pictures and light are flashing, these can affect and interfere with a child play. Not only does having a TV on affect a child’s play, but it also affects how parents are interacting with their children.
All media for children under age two is damaging.
Research shows if parents use media with children under two years old, they should make sure that screen time leads to social interactions with their children, instead of replacing those interactions. How parents approach media matters; while watching TV or playing a game, have conversations to make it a learning experience. Parents can help their child by focusing on the three C’s – content, context and the (individual) child.
Not all media is bad and it is okay in moderation, but it is also important to remember that children need to move. Too much screen time interferes with physical activity, and as children grow older they grow into routines. Start developing a new routine; get outside, enjoy the summer, play, learn, and make memories!