Is There a ‘Right’ Way to Do Screen Time? An Expert Weighs In

right way to do screen time
Source: Alaina Kaz

My son was nearly 1-year-old when I naively posted this question in a mommy Facebook group: “How long is the recommended screen time for babies?” Oh, boy. I had no idea I stepped into a parenting landmine among the mommies who passionately expressed their opinions on both sides of this “issue.” On one end, some moms shamed me for even considering this possibility. On the other end were moms who embraced unlimited screen time for survival in the first year. I felt more confused than before posting. Couldn’t there be a happy medium between both sides when it came to any screen time for our kids? I just genuinely wanted to know if there was a “right” way to do screen time.

As with anything related to parenthood, screen time is not prescriptive. Every child and parent is different, so we are all doing our best for our particular situation. Nonetheless, The American Academy of Pediatrics provides recommendations for children’s usage of various forms of media that can serve as a guide. To delve deeper into this topic and develop an additional resource for parents, we interviewed Dr. Jenny Radesky—an expert on digital media, kids, and families. Dr. Radesky is a Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Michigan Medical School. Her research focuses on the use of mobile/interactive technology by parents and young children and how this relates to child self-regulation and parent-child interaction. 

Continue reading to learn more about Dr. Radesky’s take on whether or not there is a “right way” to do screen time with children. We are also sharing more details about the e-learning platform, Noggin, which Dr. Radesky endorses that gives preschool-age kids engaging and interactive educational online content. 

 

1. What are the benefits of introducing screen time to children?

Dr. Radesky wanted to preface this discussion by informing parents there is no right or wrong way to raise children. She shared, that parenting is “such an individualized experience based on who you are, how you were brought up, who your child is, and what you’re going through at the moment.” Instead, Dr. Radesky’s goal “is to give parents practical advice on positive ways to use media and screens, while avoiding the time-wasters and technology that is just trying to make money off of our exhaustion.” She hopes kids’ media usage supports parents rather than causes them more stress.

According to Dr. Radesky, “the benefits of using screen media…are mostly about the social connection and storytelling that media provides.” Technology has an incredible ability to instantly connect us to each other. Dr. Radesky reminded us that storytelling is a vital component of a child’s learning as their brains develop. Books are an excellent way to expose children to storytelling, but the right kind of media can also serve this purpose. She wanted parents to know that “it’s important to find children’s media that is produced by talented writers and creators who really know how children think about the world.” In addition, finding stories which include diverse perspectives and voices—for example, race/ethnicity, ability, or personality—are also vital to kids’ developing their identities. 

 

 

2. Is there a recommended age to introduce screen time to children?

Dr. Radesky said, “In terms of recommended age, it’s important for parents to know that infants under 18-24 months don’t fully understand all the symbols that are presented on screens.” This means at this age, kids don’t understand the connection between what they potentially see on a screen and what can exist in 3D life. Although they may be enthralled by screens, no true learning is happening at this age until they are closer to two years and older. According to Dr. Radesky, one caveat to this is infants do seem to comprehend video chatting around 15-18 months. Therefore, infants chatting with their grandparents across the country can be a great way to establish connections. 

This does not mean you cannot let your baby watch an episode of Peppa Pig. You just can’t expect them to grasp any learning when they are younger than 18 months. Dr. Radesky also didn’t want parents to feel any guilt when spending some quality family sofa time while watching TV. She did want parents to be cognizant of “doomscrolling” for long periods of time on their phones. “Infants and toddlers are always learning informally by watching us, so it’s good to show our kids that we have self-control over media too, and it has a time and a place in our lives.”

 

3. What guidance can you provide for the best types of children’s online programs/learning platforms?

Dr. Radesky shared, “Content quality is so key in shaping how kids learn and respond to media, so we really focus on this in our new American Academy of Pediatrics Family Media Plan tool released last month.” With so many choices out there for parents, she recommended parents curate the appropriate media content for their children (watch it with them!) while also reading reviews from the online resource Common Sense Media. Dr. Radesky wanted to empower parents to skip certain forms of media or particular shows if they feel it’s “too sassy, pranky, or shallow” or contains too many “pop-up ads, gimmicky rewards, or pressure to make in-app purchases.”

Instead, she recommended educational platforms like Noggin which was developed by a team of experts and advisers in early childhood and education. The best online programs are those like Noggin which encourage the family to watch together, so kids are engaging with the content actively rather than zoning out. Dr. Radesky said, “Kids always learn best when the caregivers [are] at their side helping them make sense of what they saw on the screen and apply it to the rest of the world.” 

 

 

What is Noggin?

As Dr. Radesky shared, Noggin is an e-learning platform and subscription service that brings the Nick Jr. characters your kids love into an engaging and smart tool for kids to have fun and learn. With characters from popular shows like PAW Patrol, Dora the Explorer, and Bubble Guppies, this preschool edutainment experience gives kids ages 2-7 access to a growing library of educational games, e-books, activities, and exclusive shorts developed by curriculum specialists. By subscribing to Noggin, your kids will get the type of storytelling and building connections content Dr. Radesky recommended that will enhance their learning. Noggin can be used on any smartphone or tablet, making it convenient to use no matter the time or location.

 

What Makes Noggin an Excellent Choice for Screen Time?

  • There is no mom guilt associated with screen time because with Noggin, kids can learn math, science, literacy, music, social-emotional lessons, and so much more!
  • Full episodes of their favorite Nick Jr. shows are available to stream.
  • It is completely safe and designed by child development experts, pediatricians, researchers, and parents with preschoolers in mind.
  • There are no ads—ever!

right way to do screen time
Noggin

Kids Entertainment and E-Learning Subscription

Give your preschooler intentional screen time that provides fun, educational lessons with PAW Patrol, Peppa Pig, Bubble Guppies, and other Nick Jr. characters. With ad-free edutainment, your kid can learn in a safe and secure digital platform designed with developmentally-appropriate content so parents feel guilt-free about using screen time.

Try Noggin for free for the first 30 days, then pay only $7.99 a month!

 

 4. Are there recommended time limits for screen time?

In regards to time limits, Dr. Radesky believed they should be tailored to meet the needs of each family. Whether it’s a certain number of hours per day or only particular days of the week, she emphasized explaining to kids the importance of having time limits for screen time to do other important things throughout their day. Plus, eventually, time limits can teach children how to keep track of time.

“Consistency of the ‘when, where, and how’ of media use is key. It makes it predictable and less likely that your kids will negotiate or pester you for it,” said Dr. Radesky.

Choosing no-tech zones in your home is another way to limit screen time usage for your children. All these details can be developed as a family unit using the AAP Family Media Plan tool

Dr. Radesky wanted parents to know it’s okay if at times they allow their kids to increase screen time for various reasons. If they feel screen time has gotten out of their control, parents can always reassess their agreed-upon Family Media Plan and adjust as needed.  

 

right way to do screen time

Source: Alaina Kaz

 

5. Is there a “wrong” way to do screen time?

Dr. Radesky reminded all parents that mistakes are merely learning opportunities for growth and reminders to reassess their parenting approach. Nonetheless, she would like parents to be aware of these “screen time pitfalls.”

  • Avoid simplistic apps with ads and in-app purchases.
  • Be careful of video-sharing sites like YouTube.
  • It’s best to not introduce kids at a young age to shows with lots of ads or those which contain shallow or gimmicky videos.
  • Try to stay away from programming which focuses on “materialistic content rather than good storytelling.”
  • Do not use media as a soothing mechanism for your child. Instead, teach them how to self-regulate and be emotionally aware.

right way to do screen time
Noggin

Kids Entertainment and E-Learning Subscription

Give your preschooler intentional screen time that provides fun, educational lessons with PAW Patrol, Peppa Pig, Bubble Guppies, and other Nick Jr. characters. With ad-free edutainment, your kid can learn in a safe and secure digital platform designed with developmentally-appropriate content so parents feel guilt-free about using screen time.

Try Noggin for free for the first 30 days, then pay only $7.99 a month!

As Dr. Radesky said, there is no definitive “right” way when it comes to screen time, but hopefully, these guidelines can help parents choose what is best for their family.

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This post was in partnership with Noggin but all of the opinions within are those of The Everymom editorial board. We only recommend products we genuinely love.