Saturday, January 21, 2012


If your home is anything like mine, you've got smartphones, laptops, iPads, iPods, video games, or reading tablets laying around, as well as the gigantic big screen TV's in most rooms of your house.  We are for sure a high-tech generation.  But what I realized the other day was that it was just maybe, what, 3 years ago that a lot of that changed? Our homes went from boring texting phones to a smartphone.  There was no such thing as a Kindle or an iPad and laptops were just for work related things (nothing our children were interested in).

And yes, I am a mom/child counselor, BUT I am NOT the perfect parent. That's right, when my child was a newborn, I had the Today show on in the mornings and Ellen on in the background while nursing.  I still turn on the Today show in the morning to hear the news and weather, so I'm not going by the strict no TV guidelines.

I have also used some Baby Einstein videos when my child was colicky and would not stop crying (and I have to say that the kids I used to nanny had parents who told me to let them watch these Baby videos and they are now super smart teenagers :) I also turn on Elmo during the times my child is having major meltdowns and nothing seems to calm her down.  Hey, gotta do what works in desperate times, right?

I know that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends NO TV or media contact for children under 2.  There are days when my child has no TV exposure but when she does, I try to limit it to under 30 minutes a day.

BUT with all this new technology, I also have to take into account the exposure to the new tech devices.  When I used to babysit even just 2-3 years ago (yes I still babysat while I was pregnant and married), the parents only had to worry about the exposure their children had to TV and video games.  Now, we have to factor in all these other techy gadgets.  I've heard that when your toddler stares at these screens (iPads, iPhones and tv included) and gets transfixed, that their brain is actually shut down and gone to sleep.  Uh-oh.

At first I didn't think it was such a big deal and was so excited to download some amazing Elmo apps for our iPad and iPhones. I thought it was so cute when my daughter finally learned how to swipe the pad with her finger and start the apps all by herself (note her fast finger swiping action in the photo above!).  And it seemed educational that she was learning the alphabet from Elmo.

But then it became an obsession with her whenever she found our iPad or iPhone.  She just had to have whatever tech device she found and it was hard to redirect her.  So we now have to hide them and put them away.

Whenever I grab my computer or phone to check something like an email, my child instantly wants it.  So I've come to a new conclusion that I don't want my child to learn from me that my life revolves around my phone, iPad or laptop.  That I am not joined at the hip to these things and life does go on outside of gadgets.

One thing that I have witnessed in public and I swear I will never do (hopefully), is be that family sitting at dinner at a restaurant where each child is glued to their tech device.  Their heads never look up from the table.  And mom and dad are staring at each other or worse, I've seen the parents glued to their phones too.  Such a sad picture to see.

I want my children to learn the art of conversation at the dinner table or at a family function, or party.  Now, for preschool aged children, it's not realistic to expect them to sit there for an hour and join in the conversation, so having some real toys (little figurines) or coloring supplies with you on hand is a good plan.  Artistic expression and play is way better developmentally than being glued to a video game.  I know sometimes it's hard when they are out in public and bored, but hey, I had to learn these things as a kid so I know it's possible :)

What are the other risks you ask?

I found this article and this one that talks about how too much tech stimulation increases obesity, affects their sleep, increases aggression from violence as well as fears, and can encourage behaviors witnessed on TV such as smoking, gender and racial stereotypes and sexual behaviors.  For children under 2, it can decrease brain development and leaves less time for play.

This article wrote an alarming statistic that for every hour a child under 2 spends in front of a screen, he or she spends about 50 minutes less interacting with a parent, and about 10 percent less time in creative play.

And I'm not even going to go there about the internet influence in this post, or how to plan for their safety as that is on a whole other level!  But if you are looking for some tips for parents on how to limit school aged kids on TV, video games and internet, click here.

So, I know we all have our kids watch some TV here or there. Hey, it can be educational to learn about the alphabet and other lessons on some of the educational programming, as well as the wildlife and nature shows.  Video games can also teach children creative and strategic thinking.  And aps can be educational too.

But I guess the big picture is making sure to not have TOO much time of any of the high tech devices.  As a parent, I am going to hopefully convey the message that life does not revolve around them.  That I'm not glued to my phone.  Yes, life does exist outside of these fun stimulating 'toys.'  More books and more free play please!

How about you all, any thoughts on how to handle tech exposure?



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