Avoid or Limit Screen Time

Why It Is Important to Avoid or Limit Screen Time

Ecole Claire Fontaine follows the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines and discourages all television and other entertainment media viewing for children ages 2 and under. Screen time should also be avoided for preschoolers aged 2 and older before coming to school.

From a parent’s perspective, watching TV or playing on the iPad may be more convenient and easy, but it is a delusion because it often makes the rest of the day a lot more difficult. Just as kids come down from a sugar high, they also come down from a screen high. Emotional outbursts, difficulties sleeping, and inability to focus on tasks that require concentration all describe what a preschooler is like after two hours of media screening.

Screens can be addictive, especially for young children. Did you know that in May 2013 the American Psychiatric Association added the “internet use disorder” (IUD) to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders? In order to be added to the manual, research had to demonstrate not only that screen time can become a regular habit that has the potential to disrupt daily life, but that there is also neurological evidence to back up that claim. Like other addictions screen time creates notable changes in brain chemistry, especially in the release of the dopamine.

The brain develops rapidly during the first few years of a child’s life, and preschoolers are very sensitive to those media devices. Early childhood experts agree that if a child develops a dopamine habit during early childhood, more serious problems may ensue later. Also spending a lot of time in front of screens in the early years can lead to increased screen time later in childhood, which may contribute to problems with peers and at school.

Many TV programs and/or computer games are targeted at young audiences, and some parents may believe that they cannot offer their children the kind of educational experiences that media provides. But this is false. Those programs do not really help children learn, and in some cases may even slow their learning.

Infants and toddlers learn differently from older children and adults. They do not understand that the world on the screen corresponds to their world, and have a hard time translating what they see into real life. They do not benefit from direct teaching, which is the technique used in educational TV shows and videos.

Very young children learn best by relating to real live people, especially people who are important to them, but they also learn by moving and doing. Watching educational programs is most effective when a parent or other caregiver is present and interacting with the child. When parents talk with their children, they not only promote their language development but also teach their children that they are valued and important. Reading books and turning off screens can facilitate these positive interactions.

Preschoolers have nothing to gain and lots to lose from spending time in front of screens, instead of playing and interacting with friends and loved ones.

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