For most parents, last week’s announcement on limiting television by the American Academy of Pediatrics, wasn’t anything new. Our children’s physicians, magazines, and yes, television news have told us all that children under 2 should not be allowed to watch television or take in media on computers and phones. Many of us took this warning to heart and found other ways to entertain our children when were trying to get dinner on the table, fit in a daily shower, or accomplish any number of daily household tasks. For many parents I know, this recommendation is trumped by the daily reality of parenting small children. However, there is valuable information that comes with the recommendation.

The New York Times reported:

The new report from the pediatrics association estimates 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.

From the AAP release:

Unstructured playtime is more valuable for the developing brain than electronic media. Children learn to think creatively, problem solve, and develop reasoning and motor skills at early ages through unstructured, unplugged play. Free play also teaches them how to entertain themselves.

This second point is what now, as the parent of a 3-year-old and a 6-year-old, I can see as the most valuable benefit to my kids being television-free as toddlers, and existing now on a very slim media diet. They have become very good at entertaining themselves. Every day after school we have some time together to read and talk about their days before I go to the kitchen to get dinner ready. They will play independently or together, take on new craft or art projects, or come help me with food preparation in the kitchen.

My kids, on average, take in about 2-3 hours of television time a week. They are old enough now to understand what they are experiencing as television viewers. I know that they learn best through playing and interaction with adults and other children, but through carefully selected programming, they see glimpses of other worlds and realities that people of all ages find entertaining, humorous, or emotionally gripping.

Although the American Academy of Pediatrics’ new recommendation is less strict than it has been in the past , at the core the recommendation is the same: urging parents to protect their children from electronic media in order to give kids the best start.

Katherine DeGood – Contributing Writer for Hazelnut Kids and Mother of Willem and Adeline

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