Programming on Amazon, Hulu, Netflix? What about baby apps for iPads and iPhones? Grandma wants to Skype at 7:00 tonight, is that a good idea? In the candy-store world of technology, Instagram beckons, texting, Twitter, Facebook … oh, and, This is Us is on. “Binge” used to be a bad word and suddenly it’s magical. Oh, but wait, you have a baby! How are you supposed to balance all of these techno treats for yourself? How are you supposed to manage it for your baby?
First of all, get a grip. Make a plan that works for you but that keeps a healthy balance in mind. Technology is marvy, but so is the oyster of the real world. Know that for children between the ages of 6 months and 3 years, screen time really shouldn’t take the place of playtime. And for this age group, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), it’s important that you spend time watching programs and doing activities with your child, not leaving her, well, to her own devices.
Consider the Guidelines
Whether or not you jive with the experts, you should at least know what they’re saying. Last year, the AAP revised old media guidelines for children to reflect current life, even if they still fall short of what’s really going on. The AAP recommends limiting screen time to one hour a day for little ones ages 2 – 5 and not exposing babies ages 18 months and younger to digital media at all. They say that baby brains need to develop away from screens and need the benefit of parent-child connections first and foremost. The AAP recommends “parents prioritize creative, unplugged playtime for infants and toddlers,” it wrote in a press release from October 2016. But a recent survey by the charity Action for Children found almost one in four parents struggle to limit screen time for little ones. So, what can you do?
Manage Baby’s Media Like You Do Your Own
It’s about awareness. Those instincts you have that your own parents had when they used the TV as a babysitter for YOU. All parents do it. When you feel that gnawing sensation that means, “Oh, I shouldn’t do this,” try listening to it. Be aware of how many times a day you put your phone in Baby’s hands. Be aware of how long he uses it, and by all means, if he cries when you take it away, know that you need to find other fun things for him to do.
Tips for Baby’s (and Your) Well-Being
Stick with the idea that face time with you is the best thing you can offer your baby and build from there. Add this stuff in:
- Keep a running tab of how much time your baby spends on a screen (of any kind) throughout the week so you can at least get your “snapshot” and make a plan from there.
- Plan activities to do with your baby that don’t involve screen time.
- Carefully choose media for your baby to watch. Don’t just install an app for him, do the app yourself. Be as detailed and choosy as you are for yourself when choosing for him.
- Encourage Skype and Facetime for him with Grandma or friends. If you can’t get together for play dates, show him that we can still connect with others in a fun, almost in-person way.
- Do the same things for yourself. Plan super-fun daily activities for yourself that don’t involve screen time.
- Although you may feel the pressure to do it, try not to buy your little one his own gadget since it will just become harder to manage.
- Is the content educational, age-appropriate and safe?
- Can my child interact with the content?
- Does the content move fast, feature super-bright colors or blast loud music? If yes, then you know it may be too much for your little one.
Become an expert at viewing options for your baby; several resources receive high marks from the AAP:
Video & TV
BabyFirst TV: Offers slow-moving educational shows.
Baby Genius (Netflix): Animated characters sing nursery songs mixed with real-life images.
Mother Goose Club (Netflix and YouTube): Nursery rhymes plus kids in animal costumes, simple animations and a slow pace.
Baby Animals in the Wild (Netflix): Relaxing and simple.
Baby Apps from Fisher-Price: Simple designs and colors babies can tap to get a reaction.
The Adventures of Nano Bear: Animals in habitats, sounds, learning activities and simple animation.
Mochu POP: Language immersion where kids pop colorful balloons to learn new letters.
Metamorphabet: Travel through the alphabet as letters morph into new shapes.