How Much is Too Much Screen Time for Kids?

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Kid Screen Time - How Much Is Too Much_2

Okay mamas, I’m ready to talk about something a little touchy in the parenting world.  Something that affects all of us…and all of our kids.  Screen time for our children.

We are in the generation of everything electronic – TVs, cell phones, iPads, handheld gaming devices, laptops, tablets, thousands of apps and games, and everything in between.    All at out fingertips.  Which means at our children’s fingertips.  So here’s my question today: how much is too much screen time for kids?

Let’s open up a dialogue, because I am genuinely curious to hear what other mamas have to say on this subject.  I’ll start.  Here’s my two cents…please feel free to agree, disagree or comment below.

Our experience with our first child…

First, let me begin by saying that I have a four-year-old and six-year-old.  So that’s where my experience lies and my opinions formed.

For our family, the introduction (and controversy) of electronics came early in my kids’ lives.  On one hand, I was bombarded by educational and medical studies, blogs and conversations with other parents about how bad screen time was for kids.  I read them, I internalized them and I talked about them with my hubby.  I had a very clear picture of what I wanted for my kids.  Minimal, if any, screen time.

On the other hand…life happened.

Slowly but surely, we started letting our first child watch TV.  Hey, what’s one Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or Little Einsteins??  We were pretty strict about having the TV off, except for these 20 minute shows that were kid friendly.

Our experience with our second child…

Then, our second kiddo came along.  And we let him watch TV a lot sooner than my daughter.  Kind of more by default.

And guess what?  Our lives got more complicated.  I was running out of creative ideas to entertain my then active, curious, loud two-and-a-half-year old while I nursed the baby.  Here kid, watch a Yo Gabba Gabba.

I found myself becoming more lax in the screen time department.  My threshold bumped up to a couple of 20 minute shows per day.

Onto the school years… 

Fast forward to present day.  I have a four-year-old and a six-year-old who now know the pass codes to my phone and iPad, know how to work the DVR, and know how to work the Playstation 3 for DVDs.  Oh, and both kids know how to login and navigate Netflix. (I’m kind of cringing even as I write this.)

My first grader is hungry for learning games and apps – beginner Spanish, language arts, learning about the States, and anything to do with reading and art…she could literally spend hours if I let her.

My son is honing in on his fine motor skills (which makes the iPad easier), and loves playing Starfall.com on the iPad – phonics, numbers and beginner reading.  And yes, I’ve seen a noticeable (good!) difference now that he’s been playing those games.

Some resources I found…

I started researching more about kids and screen time, and have included some of the websites and articles I found helpful:

American Academy of Pediatrics
Excerpt:  “Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2. A child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.”

Kids’ Screen Time May Affect Their Well-Being
This is a really interesting read, re-published by The Huffington Post (By: Rachael Rettner, Senior Writer;
Published: 03/17/2014 on LiveScience)

Kids Still Getting Too Much Screen Time, Experts Say (CBS News)
(By: Amy Norton, HEALTHDAY) – CBS News just shared a story on this very topic on July 9th.

Research Says Screen Time Can Be Good For Your Kids
Finally, I landed on an article that addressed some of the benefits of screen time.  (By: Jordan Shapiro, Contributor, FORBES)

Our dilemma…

My husband and I have been talking about how much is TOO much screen time.  Beyond the studies, beyond what the pediatrician recommends, beyond what other kids are doing.  Because at then end of the day, we’re just parents.  What are we comfortable with?

I asked my hubby this question last night – ideally, how much time are you comfortable with the kids in front of the screen…any screen.  His initial answer?  One hour per week, per kid.  I immediately started laughing.  He did too.

Sorry hubs, this is not very realistic.

I’d like to think we’re somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.  No, our kids are not in front of a screen all.the.time.  They are at school, they are at camps, playdates, activities, running, reading, playing, crafting, swimming…you name it.

But yes, our kids are allowed to watch TV, use the iPad for learning games, and watch kid movies on Netflix.

Some parents I talk to are ALL for the iPads, games/apps, TV, movies, laptops, etc. – the kids are learning by leaps and bounds, working on their fine motor skills, and it’s “the way of the world now.”

Some parents I talk to are really against putting their kiddos in front of electronics as a “babysitter.”  Their argument is that they should be engaged with the people around them, running, playing, creating, and learning hands-on.

I’m torn.  I see both sides.  And, I play both sides.  I’m more lax with the screen time, my husband tends to be more strict with their screen time usage.

Share your thoughts…

So here’s my question to you.  What are your boundaries?  What are your house rules?  How much is TOO much, in your opinion?  Please share below…and let’s talk about it in a fun, easygoing way…because at the end of the day, we all want what’s best for our kids!

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