I love technology, especially when it means I can video chat with my infant niece who lives 300 miles away! But I worry that her time interacting with me through a screen might affect her development. After all, aren't screens bad for babies?
The short answer is: the less screen time the better, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). For babies, AAP discourages the use of screen media other than video-chatting. For toddlers and older children, AAP suggests that choosing high-quality programming or apps and use them together with children, because this is how toddlers learn best.
But in real life, that's challenging — especially when we're using screens for so much in our daily lives right now! While technology is helping get us through this difficult time, it's always good to remember that young children’s brains are developing and need daily face-to-face interactions to continue to grow and learn. Even if screens are part of your daily routine, CPL always recommends adding activities that feature reading, talking, singing, playing, and writing to help young children grow.
The most important screen time tip is to do what's best for your family! Here are some ideas to help you manage screen time:
- Co-view and co-play when you can. Playing and watching media together increases children's learning, especially in language development! This isn't realistic for every minute of screen time, but add in some time together when you can. A great way to co-view together is by attending a virtual story time! Story times naturally build in chances to interact and play together, so if you haven't tried one before, sign up today!
- Find a healthy balance in what you're watching. Your librarian can help you find high quality and educational media for your baby or toddler. Remember, it's okay to watch some things that are just for fun too, as long as they are age-appropriate. Think of screen time as a healthy balanced diet: it's OK to have candy once in a while! Use your library card to visit Overdrive and find some great media to watch right from home!
- Find a routine. Young children thrive on structure, and setting boundaries is an important part of screen time.
- Keep screen-free activities on hand!
- Try building a sculpture together out of paper or homemade play dough
- Make paint out of simple ingredients you may already have in your home
- Check out a sing-along musical eBook right from home and sing together
- Have some rhyme time and say some silly rhymes together
- And when in doubt, go outside
Sharing interactive books together is a great way to have interactive screen-free time, too. Here are some of my favorite interactive picture books for babies and toddlers:
Make the seasons change when you rub, touch, wiggle, and Tap the Magic Tree. The board book is for babies and the picture book for toddlers!
Mix It Up! with this fun, interactive book that invites you to touch the pages and magically make new colors.
For a quiet but interactive bedtime story, check out Touch the Brightest Star.