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Family Accountability

Too Much Screen Time for Toddlers?

by Ali Royann

Dear Ali,
My sister puts her toddler in front of the TV all day long. How can I show her the harmful effects of too much screen time?

Caring Observer in Illinois

Dear Caring,

As a mom who is trying to get multiple tasks accomplished in a day, it is very tempting to place young children in front of a screen to keep them occupied. With laundry, meal preparation, cleaning, and errands, it can be overwhelming to get anything done with small children needing Mama’s attention. Television and devices can easily become a babysitter if we are not careful.

As you may know, the first five years are critical in the development of a child’s brain. Too much screen time can overstimulate a child’s nervous system which can lead to behavioral and learning disorders. Many experts suggest that children under the age of five have only one hour of screen time daily.

Many experts suggest that children under the age of five have only one hour of screen time daily.

Experiences and interactions have a direct impact on a toddlers learning and motor skills, as well as their social and emotional abilities. These experiences and interactions cannot happen if they are constantly in front of a screen. Toddlers need to explore and play. Blocks, puzzles, textured toys, and picture books develop logical thought, concentration, and organization while stimulating imagination. Reading to toddlers develops language skills and vocabulary. Playdates with other children help to develop social skills like taking turns, sharing, and how to treat others.

Too much screen time can also discourage physical exercise. Running around and playing builds strength and develops body movement, flexibility, and coordination. Experiencing the outdoors and interacting with animals can help children to cultivate a love for science and nature. Physical exercise also promotes healthier living and staying in shape, even at an early age.

Another danger with using the television to keep little ones occupied is that parents are not fully aware of what their kids are soaking up through the screen. Although stations may advertise “kid friendly” viewing, many cartoons and shows may not promote messages you are comfortable with as a parent. Without watching shows prior to your kids viewing, some of these messages will go undetected.

There is much you can do as a parent to encourage a love of learning early on in your children. Screen time can have its place and purpose on occasion, but healthy habits need to be taught early on!

Yours in accountability,

“Ask Ali” is an op-ed column answering common questions about accountability and related topics.

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