“How much TV does [Squishy] watch?”
“We don’t really let him watch TV.”
“No TV? Not even the kids channels on YouTube? Or Peppa Pig?”
“No. Well… he does listen to Little Baby Bum sometimes. But he doesn’t watch the videos. Oh, and we make an exception for long flights.”
*Silence, plus tons of follow-up questions on how we “entertain” Squishy without screens*
We always get a lot of skepticism whenever we say Squishy doesn’t watch TV at all. Not even the “educational” videos so popular on YouTube these days. Here in Singapore it’s quite common to see iPhones streaming colourful nursery rhyme songs babysitting the kids in strollers on the bus, on the MRT, and even in food centres/restaurants.
We’re not crazy technophobes. Hubby and I still binge-watch Westworld or Game of Thrones when baby’s asleep. Hubby still likes relaxing with his NBA 2K17 game loaded on his PlayStation.
In fact, Squishy enjoys a lot of screen time with his lolos and lolas, and has recently developed a knack for being pa-cute and making funny faces whenever he talks to them.
But we’re very conscious of when the TV is on and what’s on TV – simply because for toddlers younger than two years old, TV doesn’t make a lot of sense.
“Infants and toddlers cannot learn from traditional digital media as they do from interactions with caregivers, and they have difficulty transferring that knowledge to their 3-dimensional experience.”
– From the American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement, Nov 2016
What do they need? Play. That’s it. Very young kids need creative play and a lot of interaction with their caregivers (nanay, tatay, lolos and lolas, and even yaya) to develop their skills.
So absolutely no to using iPhones as babysitters for long periods of time. Be wary of “educational” apps for babies.
- Avoid digital media use (except video-chatting) in children younger than 1 ½ to 2 years old.
- For children ages 1 ½ to 2 years of age, if you want to introduce digital media, choose high-quality programming and use media together with your child. Avoid solo media use in this age group.
- Do not feel pressured to introduce technology early; interfaces are so intuitive that children will figure them out quickly once they start using them at home or in school.
- For children 2 to 5 years of age, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programming, co-view with your children, help children understand what they are seeing, and help them apply what they learn to the world around them.
- Avoid fast-paced programs (young children do not understand them as well), apps with lots of distracting content, and any violent content.
- Turn off televisions and other devices when not in use.
- Avoid using media as the only way to calm your child. Although there are intermittent times (e.g., medical procedures, airplane flights) when media is useful as a soothing strategy, there is concern that using media as strategy to calm could lead to problems with limit setting or the inability of children to develop their own emotion regulation. Ask your pediatrician for help if needed.
- Monitor children’s media content and what apps are used or downloaded. Test apps before the child uses them, play together, and ask the child what he or she thinks about the app.
- Keep bedrooms, mealtimes, and parent–child playtimes screen free for children and parents. Parents can set a “do not disturb” option on their phones during these times.
- No screens 1 hour before bedtime, and remove devices from bedrooms before bed.
We have trouble following these guidelines to the letter – for instance, we video-call his lolos and lolas during dinner. But we put our mobile phones away whenever we play with Squishy. We keep the TV switched off (when it gets too quiet, we play music, which Squishy likes to dance to).
In today’s screen-saturated world, we do our best.