A few days ago a question was asked on the ABCJLM Facebook Group about the amount of media use allowed each day. Great question. It was interesting to read the range of answers… from no media use to no limits.
Risk of Media Use
The research is unanimous. It doesn’t matter if it is educational or not…it is media. Use of and watching media means that the child is not using the same part of their brain as when playing independently and with a group. It means the child is not working their imagination and fine or gross motor skills. It means the child is not interacting on a social level or learning by trial and error, cause and effect.
I talk to teachers all the time who have students in their classroom who don’t have the strength to squeeze a bottle of glue or correctly hold a pencil. And over and over the teachers tell me it is because the child used one finger to play on the iPad or sat watching TV for ample amounts of time each day. They struggle to focus, maintain self-control, and play with friends because a media device was placed in their hands to keep them quiet at the grocery store, restaurant, and doctor’s office. I cringe when grandparents brag on their grandchild’s ability to use an iPad.
Do a Google search and you will find even more dangers to TV viewing and media use at a young age:
- increase in violent behavior
- negative effect on learning and academic performance
I don’t regret for one moment my decision to allow very, very little media when our children were youngsters. By “very, very little” I mean an average of 1 hour a month…yes, a month.
Benefits of Media Use
But at the same time, I wonder if I went too far to one extreme. There were times when if I would have given myself a little grace, a few minutes of TV watching a week would have given me a nice timeout and break! It would have been healthy for me and my family.
I’ve also seen the negative affects that happen when a mom puts too much emphasis on keeping her child away from media. While at a birthday party I watched a mom stressed to the core. A TV was on and she was afraid her child would catch a glimpse as people were holding and passing around her baby. Because a baby senses a mother’s emotions, the stress that the mommy was feeling was more of a negative on the child than a few second glances of TV.
And there are amazing programs available – iPad games and PBS shows (I love Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood). I also promote What’s in the Bible? and JellyTelly regularly because when used wisely they can be amazing tools to teach our children the Bible.
As an almost teenager, Bubs’ neuropsychologist actually encourages some electronic game time for Bubs as it forces him to plan ahead and organize his thoughts (which is a huge struggle with Executive Function Disorder and ADHD).
And now that they are older, I am learning the benefit of using media to point out morals, behavior, and attitudes. It is easier for the kids to see the behavior on TV than in themselves. Because of this, we watch programs together and discuss along the way. Our children almost never watch a program by themselves and electronics are always used in major traffic areas of our home and not in bedrooms.
Whether we like it or not, we can not escape media. Thus I’ve realized the need to expose our children to it on a healthy level to train them to wisely monitor their own media use. For example…What makes this an acceptable movie? How much TV viewing is too much? When is it appropriate to use media?
Even with these few benefits, most days our children have no media use at home. Because they didn’t grow up using media, they beg to go outside or play with Legos rather than watching TV or playing on the computer.
How Much Is Too Much?
Notice that almost all of the benefits listed are for elementary-aged children and higher.
Think back to the risks…obesity, lower academic performance. Does this information scare you? It should, because the problem is real.
But I’m not the only one asking you think before placing your child in front of a TV or with an iPhone. The American Pediatric Association has guidelines as well.
- Younger than 18 months: Avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting.
- 18 to 24 months: Choose high-quality programming, and watch it with your children to help them understand what they’re seeing.
- 2 to 5 years: Limit screen use [TV and computer] to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
Notice that even when it is allowed for a child to use media, the suggestion is that the parent or caregiver is watching the programming with the child to discuss what they are viewing.
Why is Your Child Using Media?
I want to encourage you to honestly look at your child’s TV and media use. Track it for a week and see how much they are truly using it. If you find they are spending more than the recommended amounts, I encourage you to evaluate why.
- Is the TV or device used as a babysitter?
- Is it laziness?
- Are you using it because it is easier than disciplining?
- Is it apathy?
- Is it a heart issue that you need to pray through?
Is have your sheltered your child so much from media that they haven’t learned to properly evaluate it?
Keep It Between the Ditches
On the one side is a parent who has no limits to their child’s media use. We’ve already discussed how this is dangerous.
But on the other side is a mother who is paranoid about her child having any media time.
So what is the perfect amount of media use for your child? I’d don’t know. Only you can answer that through prayer and seeking the advice of professionals and wise people around you.
As with all parenting situations, we need to keep it between the ditches. Yes, misusing media can be devastating to a child. But on the flip side, children need to learn how to use electronics and hook into the wonderful learning tools available. Also, there are seasons of sicknesses when the use of media is higher than usual.
It’s called grace. It’s called wisdom.
So let’s get in the middle of the road and monitor our children’s media use. Not swerving too far to the right and not taking the ditch on the left. And let’s make sure the reason we are allowing the child to do the activity is best for the child, not just easiest for us.
So…what do you think? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.