Screen Time in Daycare

How many hours of screen time does your child have a day?

Busy Bunnies Daycare embraces technology and gladly incorporates it into our curriculum. Technology is an important part of everyday life and it is a necessary skill in today’s workforce. However, there can also be many negative consequences that develop when technology is overused.

Many people are aware of the side effects that adults experience when their lifestyles require extensive use of technology. Those stuck in front of screens for long periods of time often experience dry eyes, blurry vision, headaches, and even poor eyesight. Because they are usually sitting in one position for a long period of time, they often suffer from tension headaches and may even develop circulatory problems, particularly in their legs.

And while we may be aware of the physical toll that this type of lifestyle has on us, we rarely ponder the social and psychological effects of it. There may be brief intervals where we ponder how violence or sex in today’s media impacts our society, but even these times of reflections are fleeting.

Perhaps the greatest example of our society’s ignorance on this subject is the growing industry of “baby media.” Infants have an entire media industry geared just towards them. It’s not just the Baby Einstein movies anymore. Infants have entire TV stations geared to them. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re an Android person or an Apple person, you’ll have no trouble finding apps for your infant.

And despite all of the materials geared towards infants (nearly all advertised as educational of course), the studies show that there is no educational value to using these resources. Researchers found that infants that had screen time (even the “educational” kind), were further behind in speech than those that had no screen time.

“I don’t think we’ve seen anything to suggest that kids younger than 18 months, even with parents’ support, will learn anything from a DVD,” according to Rebekah A. Richert, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside.

And Dr. Dimitri Christakis at Seattle Children’s Research Institute also studies the effects of “baby media” and has found ” there is absolutely no benefit to this viewing despite claims that continue to be made by commercial products.”

The first five or six years of our lives are important for many reasons, one being the crucial development going on in the brain. Human interaction is essential for speech and social skills (among others). It may be tempting to believe that we can place our infants in front of the TV or the iPad and let them learn.

The problem with this reasoning is that this does not work. Infants do not learn speech from media (like TV or iPhones). Infants require genuine human contact and they are not able to transfer concepts seen on a screen (like a cup) to real life objects. Series like Baby Einstein may claim to be educational for infants, but they in fact offer zero educational value for infants.

Infant and toddler television exposure has been associated with obesity, language delay, inactivity, aggression, and decreased attention spans. These studies also found that early viewing habits lay the groundwork for viewing habits later in life. They also found that passive television viewing replaced important interactions with peers and teachers and outdoor play time, very important components in a high quality daycare.

Once again, I’d like to point out that not all use of technology is negative. In fact, there is a long tradition of using the media to teach children through quality programs like Sesame Street. But the difference between Sesame Street and “baby media” is that Sesame Street has been geared towards toddlers/preschoolers, not specifically infants. And it was available for a short period of time each day, not 24 hours a day.

So what is our exact policy at Busy Bunnies Daycare regarding the use of technology?

  • Children under 18 months will not have any screen time
  • Children will not accumulate more than one hour of screen time in a day
  • Technology (TV, tablets, iPods, computers, etc) will only be used to enhance curriculum, not to “babysit” or keep children busy

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