- While screen time isn’t a big deal in small doses, we rely on it too much. Screen time is linked to ADD, ADHD, obesity, overstimulation(leading to more problems), irregular sleep schedule and so much more.
- Screen addiction is real. If your child is reenacting and talking about things they see on TV only or if they throw a fit when its time to turn electronics off, it’s a strong sign to reduce screen time and replace with proactive habits.
- We don’t talk about taking something my kids enjoy away (screen time), but adding something “new” to the table, more playtime. My 2 step plan created a fight free environment.
Effects of Screen Time on Todders (Pros & Cons)
While screen time isn’t a big deal in small doses, we can tend to rely on it too much. Screen time is linked to slower speech development, ADD, ADHD, obesity, overstimulation, irregular sleep schedule, and poor coping skills.
Ironically I hear other moms and dads talk about how their little one is so smart with their iPad or phone, navigating their way through everything. That is a plus and pretty neat to see them pick up and remember where things are. That’s helpful.
Long term use with long periods of time actually shows it is linked to slower speech development in toddlers.
According to a NY Times blog about a Harvard psychologist’s book, they’ve found that “Before age 2, children should not be exposed to any electronic media, the pediatrics academy maintains, because “a child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.”
The study that pbs.org talked about showed babies who used mobile devices for an average of 28 minutes each day were more likely to exhibit signs of delay in expressive speech. Expressive speech is how children use their sounds and words and how they put them together to communicate.
“Each additional 30 minutes of hand-held screen time was linked to a 49 percent increased risk in expressive speech delay. ”
Due to the lack of expression abilities, children don’t develop proper coping skills and will act out. Then, that trickles down into more issues with anxiety, anger, and frustration long term which is so unhealthy for our body and mind. Without coping skills, our children can’t grow to their max potential leading to unhealthy habits in their future.
Do your kids have trouble sticking with a sleep schedule? It could be due to too much screen time.
Basically, there was a study done that showed for each hour children used a tablet, they slept 15.6 fewer minutes.
15 minutes less per hour. That’s crazy! Our babies are not getting the sleep they need to reenergize and to help their body grow and repair.
Some of this is because of the excitement of games and another cause is due to blue lights. It messes up our circadian rhythm and suppresses the natural production of melatonin.
Signs of Screen Addiction
Screen addiction is real. If your child is reenacting and talking about things they see on TV only is a sign that they lack imagination. Do they throw a fit when its time to turn electronics off? It’s a strong sign to reduce screen time and replace with better habits like STEM toys and other hands-on activities.
Screen addiction is real and common in all ages. Electronics are all about convenience and distracting entertainment. Your child is addicted if they show signs of temper tantrums, only want the TV or iPad, bored within 5 minutes of doing any hands-on activity, or lack imagination.
Let’s face it, our entire family has a problem with electronics, including me. Sometimes I just want to shut my brain off because of such a hectic day. But, I’ve found that I’m overall a happier person when my mind and body are more active. Our brain is a muscle and if we don’t use it, we lose it!
Now back to our precious angels and their development:
Screen addiction signs in your little one:
- Temper tantrums – I will never unsee a temper tantrum over turning off the TV after 1 hour of shows. I did it all wrong the first time. Learn from my mistakes moms and dads!
- Arguments/attitudes –
- Sneaking TV, iPad time in – Are they turning on the TV at night, before bed, or “playing with a toy” in front of the TV?
- Lack of imagination – Imagination is important and is an integral part of STEM learning and education.
- Bored very fast – Screen time is the only thing that really makes them happy and excited. They constantly need 1 on 1 attention if there is no TV and don’t know how to self-sooth(lack coping skills) or self-entertain.
It might feel overwhelming to read those and think that’s my baby, but they’re so young and they will improve by making these changes. Providing an environment to thrive is key to success. By stocking up with STEM puzzles, STEM art, and other STEM activities, your baby will make strides that you’re proud of, not overwhelmed about.
How I Got My Toddlers to Play Again
We don’t talk about taking away something that my girls enjoy (screen time), but adding something “new” to the table, more fun time with STEM activities. My 2 step plan has saved me time, prevented tantrums, and I’ve seen positive changes in behavior and mood. How I was able to re-engage our girls using fewer screens and more hands-on STEM activities has been the best change in our household.
Well, I thought that this was going to be a huge time killer and a giant undertaking and honestly, I wanted to avoid all of the addiction signs like tantrums and screaming crying reactions.
I summoned all of my strength and realized I’m the mom here and I know my little angels will do better in the long run if I just put in a little bit of effort and was patient and understanding during these moments.
To children, this is a huge deal and I have to understand that change is hard for most. So, with that in mind, I came up with this 2 step plan. Not only did this 2 step plan not take long, but it created a fun bonding moment for us AND I taught them new words and worked on their hand-eye coordination all while “playing and planning”.
First, my husband and I renamed the living room, kitchen, and dining room to the “screen rooms”. Screens weren’t allowed in their bedrooms. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s a recipe for disaster.
I took a picture of each room in our house and had them pick out and velcro the approved rooms on a list. That way I know they understand and it helps them feel good about getting something right.
These are the rooms we’re most often in. My husband and I can keep an eye on them to ensure they’re not over there time or watching anything that is inappropriate for their age. As a back up I have parental controls on the electronics and add a sleep timer so it shuts off. Because who doesn’t forget when you’re trying to win at mom life.
Second, I created a “Fun Time Only” calendar:
Monday through Friday from 5:30-8:30 pm my kids had a list of STEM activities they can choose from. We made it together to get them excited on all the “cool”, “new” stuff they can do while still getting screen time.
When it comes to free time, I let them choose whatever they want from our velcro list. Toddlers LOVE pulling and sticking things together. So, I had a laminate maker from Walmart, printed out words, laminated them and added velcro to a calendar.
These can be broken up into 15-20 minute segments depending on your child’s age and attention span. Their attention span will improve over time because if they’re properly engaged, they will play longer. Activities should be stimulating, fun, and challenging.
There is a windup alarm clock that they set every 20 minutes as that mark is to warn them that the time is almost up and then they have a few minutes to clean up.
They love winding it up and sometimes we’ll mess around with it for a little bit of fun. This association is good for them and they’re more likely to want to do it.
Sometimes when the timer goes off, I scream and jump or pretend to be scared and that keeps them positively occupied. It’s all about having fun at the moment, even when it’s structured!
Here’s an example of our schedule:
5:30 – (while I make dinner) Building blocks – Using the baseboard of this puzzle. It keeps the room mess-free and creates limited space for building something, forcing them to get creative! Plus, it’s great for hand-eye coordination and small motor skill development.
6:00(ish) – Dinner – Let’s hope they eat what I make( fingers crossed). They can “read” a book if they’re done early at the table.
6:30 – Dress up – Great in stimulating the imagination. Developing an imagination is important for creativity which is an essential component to STEM educational success. The earlier your kids are exposed to STEM-based learning, the more likely they’ll stick with it.
Then, they develop proper skills to be successful in the future in their personal and professional life.
7:00 – Screen time – Screen time is never before bed. Studies show it’s harder for kids to have a good REM cycle.
7:30 – Free time – I let them choose anything on the approved list at that moment (screen time not included).
8:00 – Lock & Learn STEM puzzle – My girls and I both love this. They love watching the puzzles “jump” off when pressing the white handles and laugh. It’s just too cute. I love it because it’s teaching them colors, shapes, animals, simalarties and differences, and developing small motor skills too. Plus, they lock in place, so we never lose a puzzle piece and I saved my foot from the worst pain ever.
8:30 – barbies – Not too STEM related, but who doesn’t love them?!
Then, they get to build their calendar every 2 weeks or so.
Each week I’d rotate activities so they don’t get bored and want screen time. If they really love something that is educational and helping them improve any skills, I let them keep it in the list longer.
30 minutes a day of electronic time only.
Saturday through Sunday I made it a point to do something outside for at least 2 hours a day, after a nap of course.
Their nap schedule was so much better once I got them into a routine and removed all screens too. That was an added plus! I actually had ME TIME!
Weekends were harder during the summer, we were very busy, but we still stuck with the 1 hour per weekend day for an electronic time. Sometimes I allowed 2 hours on a random rainy day. It’s okay to splurge every once in a while, am I right?
Now you’re ready to level up your child’s education at home just by using my simple, but life-changing “2-step Screen-free Plan“.
If you’ve found this helpful, sharing on social media and tagging @BrickMates is the best compliment ever! Thanks for your support moms and dads!