For any of you who have followed my blog from the beginning, you know that as a parent I have done and said many things that I swore I would never. Well, to no one’s surprise I’m sure, that list continues for me. Not only did I allow my son to pick chocolate chips to eat for breakfast this morning, don’t worry I later burnt eggs for him to eat as well, but I have also put him in front of the tv or placed an ipad in his arms more times than I want to admit. However, every time we have done this, it has been educational and our son is learning ASL faster than I ever expected. So while his ability to communicate his needs, wants, and simpy to “talk” to us has increased tremendously over the last few months, how do you know when too much is too much?
I’ve read many articles stating no screen time before 18 months of age, other research shows that as long as it is interactive and the parent participates in the activity, videos may improve language, but then I’ve also seen kids addicted to screens, whether educational or not, that have the inability to socially interact with other kids, and this, I would have to admit, is my biggest fear around any sort of screen time.
I believe our son is social by nature as he couldn’t even see the girls outside at the bus stop this morning without requesting to go outside so he could interact with them, but I have also heard the surprise cries when we turn off Baby Signing Time or close the Starfall app on the ipad that leaves me wondering, am I a horrible parent for introducing these things already? Is he just a sponge for knowledge and does he actually like learning? Or is the screen just another fun button to press? Are we stunting his learning or are we advancing it? It is taking away from other educational tasks such as the shape sorter or blocks that teach him how to be creative? Will he become so addicted that he stops wanting to go play outside and interact with kids? All of these silly questions remind me we have too much anxiety as parents these days and I should just let my son enjoy his screen time, in moderation.
My biggest desire for my son is not different than most other parents I know. I simply want him to be happy. Happiness has been shown to be highest in people who have a strong support network, healthy connections and good friends. People who are happy also are empathetic, good listeners, and know how to control their emotions. I want our son to grow up to be a good person and a good friend, and I want to start teaching him all of these things right now. I want him to be able to feel and label his emotions so that he can then learn how to react to those feelings in a healthy and constructive way. I want him to be able to communicate his feelings, his wants and his desires to help us understand him better as well. Even now, when he can’t say more than mama, papa, up, and ball. So signing has become an awesome thing to learn with him. I do believe even though he learns most of it from a video, that it is helping him learn how to label and communicate his emotions.
We are lucky for all of the amazing things Bekytt has brought to our lives, and we are thankful for the material things that have helped us teach him language in a variety of ways. Yet we hope to be able to continue to make wise decisions in parenting as he grows. We hope that all of our good decisions outweigh our bad decisions and that he grows up to be a happy person and a good friend, but we truly don’t know what we don’t know. So here’s to doing the best we can with the information we have, without over analyzing it! Let me know your thoughts and experiences on screen time for your kids! I’d love to hear others perspectives on this topic!
-Kathryn Kraft, MPT