Zero Screen Time for Babies
Zero screen time
It has been more than a month since my son was diagnosed with global developmental delay. While we have been doing occupational therapy sessions, one thing that I think really helps him progress is zero screen time. This means no TV, no computer game and no tablet or iPad. Within just a few days of zero screen time, his behavior seemed to change for the better.
Screen time for babies and toddlers
I understand why some parents like us allow our babies or toddlers screen time on the iPad or TV. Screens keep them occupied and sometimes it looks like they are really happy during those times. Especially with my son, who I could only describe as “more”, he is more intense, more active, more curious and more determined than I anticipated. He has been “more” since he was still in the womb. (The force is strong with this one)
Although I didn’t want screen time initially, he seemed really focused when watching a movie or playing apps on the iPad. A lot of things became easier: changing diapers, getting in a high chair, washing the dishes and entertaining him. When he learned to choose and open the apps he wanted, I felt really proud that he is smart and could do those things when he just turned one! We got lots of “educational” apps that he really liked, some for learning the alphabet, listening to stories, interactive apps and movies.
Living in a flat, cold world
I like technology and I believe that children should be exposed to it especially now that it is becoming more and more integrated into daily life. However, I now agree with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on their recommendation of zero screentime for children below 2 years old. It is not that babies can’t learn with a screen, but rather the flat, cold screen becomes a big part of their lives.
I like to think that I have tried my best to balance screentime with real interactive play and other activities, but it becomes hard to compete with the screen when the baby’s brain becomes wired to engage only with that flat, cold glass. When the baby presses on stickers and logos in the physical world waiting for something to happen, it may look funny at first, but you’ll know something is definitely wrong with that.
A bright and sensational world
We contemplated tapering off my son’s screentime but decided to do it cold turkey and just adjust if needed. I was careful to watch for any withdrawal symptoms even if I didn’t know what to look out for. After a couple of days, it’s like a switch has been turned on, he was not looking for the iPad or wanting to watch TV instead he was more engaged in his environment. He was playing longer with toys he usually plays with for a couple of minutes and was engaging more socially. After a couple of weeks, he became more receptive to activities like learning to drink from a straw, eating, and playing with other toddlers.
A lot of factors affect a child’s development but one thing is definitely true: babies are sensory creatures. They need to explore, to feel and to experience with their senses. The screen just can’t provide the sensory stimulation that a baby needs.
Neuroplasticity of a child’s brain
While I won’t be backing my post with scientific research, a quick google search and you’ll learn about our brain’s plasticity. Children’s brains are especially plastic which is why they learn and develop rapidly in the early years of life. As the neural pathways and synapses are formed, the brain is molded like plastic. Where does the brain get the information to form these connections? From the baby’s sensory input of course, based on what he or she experiences. This means that when a baby gets a lot of screen time, the brain is molded to react mostly to the screens.
If your baby is beginning to look like a zombie in front of the screen, or will not cooperate without a tablet, smart phone or movie, you can still do something for your child. Take advantage of the baby’s neuroplasticity and substitute screen time for more sensory activities. Instead of putting the baby in front of a screen, just play with your child even the simplest games like peekaboo, I spy or silly faces. Let your child walk barefoot in the grass or sand, and explore the world. Interact with your baby because the screen will not react to your child’s cute smile or twinkling eyes.
While these are my personal opinions, I hope you consider it because prevention really is better. I also think that being tech savvy won’t make our babies great innovators but rather great end-users and consumers in the future.
So how much screen time did your baby have today?