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Thursday, January 26, 2017

10 Benefits of Screen Time for Your Toddler

Mama's Organized Chaos: A Babywise Blog

Today is Babywise Friendly Blog Network day, and all of the wonderful bloggers are writing on the topic of: "Screen Time"! We have all sorts of fabulous viewpoints on this to share with you today. Please see the bottom of this post for a full list of titles and links.

Screen time seems to be a source of guilt for parents. If you do a search on screen time, you'll find all sorts of articles and blog posts talking about how detrimental it can be to your child and how you need to severely limit screen time. If you ask other moms how much screen time they allow, they seem to turn their nose up at it and say they do as little as possible. I really struggle with this because, as a former teacher, and now as a mom, I see SO many benefits to using technology with our children. As a society we seem to be resisting the use of technology with our children, instead of embracing it as a welcome new addition to our toolbox (and yes it is an addition, not a replacement, to outdoor play and tactile learning). As a result, I'd like to focus my discussion today on the benefits that I see to allowing screen time at the young age of... toddlerhood! 


To begin, I think it's important to discuss the types of screen time and when we started using it. When I'm referring to screen time for toddlers, I'm talking about the use of apps (via tablets or phones), as well as watching TV. We introduced a tablet to our daughter at 1 year. She had no interest in it, and really couldn't do much with it until closer to 2 (we'd try every few months). At the age of 2 (right at 24 months), her fine motor skills and understanding of the apps really took off. She started excelling with the apps I showed her, and was really enjoying herself. With regards to TV, she also showed no interest until close to the age of 1.5. Now at the age of 2, she loves watching a couple of shows (Daniel Tiger, and Dinosaur Train).

Do we have limits? Yes, of course. We don't watch TV every day, and we don't watch TV all day long (except on occasion when someone is sick). We prefer to go outside rather than stay inside using apps, and we choose the apps that are on our tablets with thought and consideration.

Do we have official time limits that we set? Not yet and perhaps never will (we'll tackle this with each new year and see if we feel the need). Each day is different, and I more so value what my daughter is getting out of her time, than simply focusing on the amount of time itself.
 
Do we have rules? Yes! No one uses their phones at the table (my husband and I value our family time at meals), and when interacting with one another we put our phones away.

Our goal as parents is not to teach that we have to limit screen time or that it is a bad thing. Our goal is to teach our daughter right off the bat how to respect it and use it at appropriate times.

So with all of that out in the open, I think it's time to look at the 10 Benefits of Screen Time for Your Toddler:

1. Educational: Both apps and TV shows can be incredibly educational for our children, and they teach in ways that we simply can't. As an example, I can model empathy, and I can talk to my daughter about it. I can even role play with her and give her suggestions of things to say. There's something about watching a full scene unfold however, and her being able to relate to what is going on and see all of the viewpoints. TV shows like Daniel Tiger provide these opportunities. The show gives her a great visual and allows her to connect with the characters. We can then talk about what is going on during the show and after. We can even relate back to the show in our real life scenarios later on. I can't tell you the number of times I've related back to Daniel Tiger. It wasn't until I was making this connection with her that she really started to understand certain topics.

Apps are designed to be educational, and simply put they are amazing. Again, I can sit down with my daughter and show her shapes. I can point out real life examples of shapes as we run into them, and we can talk about it as we see things. We can even do focused play and use shape flashcards, or shape sorters, etc. Apps, however, are designed to incorporate all of these things at once. Apps show real life examples at the same time as showing a basic shape, while talking about colors. They incorporate other concepts at the same time and it becomes a very enriched lesson. I think of apps as a well designed lesson plan. I can certainly teach my daughter these concepts, but I don't have time to draft an awesome lesson plan every day so that I'm teaching it in the best way possible. Apps already have that built in. The creators have thought of relatable pictures, sounds, and more already! I am fascinated by the amount of information packed into a simple shape sorting app, and I love seeing how much my daughter is learning!

2. Immediate Feedback: As a teacher, my goal was always to provide my students with immediate feedback so they could be learning from their mistakes as soon as possible, and getting positive feedback when they had done something correct. Instead of finishing something, turning it in, getting feedback, and then reassessing (the typical student doesn't end up actually reassessing), the process was fast and promoted reassessing- finish something, immediately see how you did, make mental notes, try again immediately instead of later! The learning rate improves drastically.

Apps provide immediate feedback. Everyone, including toddlers, can benefit from immediate feedback.  Not only does my daughter get quick feedback, it's neutral feedback and doesn't make her feel bad. I don't have to tell her she was wrong, she just get's to see that it didn't work and learn from it on her own. As an example, one of her apps has a game on day vs. night. If she puts the sun on the night side, it simply falls right back to where she grabbed it from and won't accept it. She can try it again, or move on to a different item if she's feeling frustrated or confused. If she puts the sun on the day side, it stays where she put it! The apps congratulate them when they do something right, and give them neutral, yet constructive feedback when they are incorrect. Our 2 year old (now 26 months), learns very quickly from this methodology and I've seen her progress very rapidly in her skills when using these apps.

3. Engaging: TV shows and apps are simply very engaging to our little ones- in ways that we are not always capable of. One of the first videos I showed my daughter was an alphabet video on YouTube. She was very interested in learning the alphabet at the time. She'd ask to do her alphabet puzzle, and even have me quiz her! This video really helped her to learn the alphabet, and she knew the entire alphabet by 18 months! The video was captivating to her. When we are looking at her alphabet puzzle, singing the song, etc., I don't readily just have animals to pull out that start with the letters we are talking about. I don't have pictures of children whose names start with each of the different letters. I don't have fancy songs cued up to play for our discussion. But, the video does have all of these things! The video pulls in all sorts of information in a very engaging way. She was getting to apply her knowledge without even realizing it... and she was fascinated by this video.

Two year olds have pretty low attention spans, so when you find something really engaging to them, you'll notice! My daughter can sit for 30 minutes at a time and work on her educational apps. Her apps have fun songs, animals that dance across the screen and so much more. She's also engaged because she loves learning. She can watch Daniel Tiger, and even the entire alphabet video if time allowed. Her engagement level is up, and therefore a lot of learning can be done!
 
4. Promotes Problem Solving: As mentioned above, educational apps provide immediate feedback. When that happens, problem solving kicks in. Since my daughter typically uses the tablet during independent play, she's not calling for me to help solve her problem. She's figuring it out on her own, and getting more feedback instantly. She's problem solving all on her own, and I've never seen her get frustrated. Occasionally she'll call for me after attempting to figure it out. I'll give her more information or show her how to do something, and she's able to continue solving her problem. Problem solving is an invaluable skill to have and it's essential that we give our toddlers opportunities to problem solve on their own.
 
5. Fine motor skills: When we were about to go in for our daughter's 2 year appointment with her pediatrician, we were sent a well-check survey. The survey asked about things like fine motor skills. I quickly realized that I just hadn't been giving her a ton of fine motor skill opportunities. I started incorporating more and she did very well with the activities.
 
When we started using the tablet more, I realized that apps have an incredible amount of fine motor skill activities! We really hadn't used the tablet much before the age of two, because her fine motor skills weren't allowing her to do the activities easily. She'd get frustrated because she knew what to do, but couldn't quite do it. Once she was two, she was at a level that she was able to control her movements more with the apps. I saw her fine motor skills improve drastically as she used these apps, and her confidence took off. When that happened, she was able to really show off her concept understanding, hone her fine motor skills, and move quickly through the levels to more difficult tasks.
 
6. Creativity: One of the things I love about the educational apps, is the built in creativity aspect. There are opportunities such as building your own sticker page (you collect stickers each time you complete a level), drawing and painting apps, and many even have activities such as building your own train. You get to pick from different colored train cars and literally build your own train. On some apps, you get to choose your profile (monster, animal, or child), have fun dressing your character and more. Just more ways to spark creative interest and let a child's personality show through! My daughter is often very proud of her train building, or sticker page and calls me over to take a look!
 
7. Tech Savvy: I'd be remiss if I didn't mention this. Our children are growing up in a world where simply put- they need to be tech savvy. They need to know how to use computers, tablets, cameras, editing software, video technology and more at a very young age. Their assignments at school are going to be done on these devices, and many schools are moving towards tablets instead of textbooks. In order to be successful, we need to allow them opportunities to use technology.
 
Using technology at home and starting from a young age, gives our children a chance to learn the skills they need, and it gives us opportunities to teach them how to be responsible with technology and use it in an appropriate manner from an early age. This is probably a bad example, but I think of drinking. I'd rather be the parent that let's my child have a few drinks at home and learn what it feels like to be intoxicated, instead of sending them off to college without that knowledge. I'd rather them know their limits while I'm there to protect them, instead of having them find out and suffer the consequences because I wasn't willing to teach them. The same holds true for technology. I'd rather show them the ropes before they have the chance to make a big mistake on their own. Accepting technology into our homes is the only way to do that.
 
8. Communication: We live plane rides away from our family. If it weren't for the technology today (Skype and FaceTime), our daughter would not be getting as much interaction with her extended family. She gets to interact with them at a moments notice, and as a result, she feels comfortable with them in person, even if she hasn't physically seen them in several months. They pick up right where they left off with no interruption. This is so powerful to me and I just love seeing her love for her family.
    TV and apps also encourage communication skills. She hears characters talk to her, and they even ask her to respond. Some apps that are based on words allow them to click on words and hear the correct pronunciation. Our daughter often talks about the TV shows and apps that she plays. Her vocabulary is expanding as a result.
 
9. FUN: Aside from all of the other benefits I've discussed already, this technology is allowing my daughter to have fun! She really enjoys working on her tablet. I love seeing her have so much fun. She naturally has a low attention span and likes to move onto the next activity on her own, so just like with any other activity, it is only a small portion of her day. She still loves going outdoors, loves doing crafts, reading books, and playing with her other toys. This is just another addition to her fun play! I wouldn't say no to her playing with her toys and having fun, so why would I say no to her using the tablet to have fun?
 
10. Provides restful time: You know those times when your toddler is sick, and you desperately want to give them a restful day to heal? Yet toddlers seem to have endless energy, and it is really hard to have a restful day. Then there's the flip scenario...YOU are sick. YOU don't have the energy to run around with your toddler today, and you need them to be doing something independent or resting. You need to rest so you can have your energy back tomorrow to take care of your family. Well, technology can be that answer. I was thrilled when my daughter finally found a TV show that she liked! I can let her watch TV and we can rest. I can take care of her. I can rest. I can have a hands free moment if I need it. These are all essential things that need to happen at times. There is nothing wrong with using TV to help you accomplish these things.
 
I hope this list is enlightening and provides the comfort you might be looking for with regards to screen time and your children. I think we are doing our children a disservice if we aren't allowing them to benefit from the amazing technology that we have at our disposal today. As with everything there needs to be a balance. As long as we provide opportunities to do other things and provide that balance, our children are going to do nothing but benefit from the technology. Choose the TV shows wisely. Talk about the shows. Make sure to point out lessons. Find apps that are teaching things that you approve of. Use the technology to your advantage instead of feeling guilty about it- there's simply no reason.

See our favorite apps in my guest post at Wiley Adventures, on Independent Table Time Activities.


Check out these great posts today from the Babywise Friendly Blog Network on the topic of screen time:

Carrie: {How We Do} Screen Time 

Cole: Television and The Dark Side 

Emily: Redefining Screen Time Limits as Kids Age

Katrina: 10 Benefits of Screen Time for Your Toddler

Kimberly: Forgive Yourself, Mama. Screen Time can be Just a Season

Natasha: Screen Time Alternatives

Shea:

Valerie: Rules for Balancing Screen Time


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Hey guys! I'm Katrina (aka Mama)! I love country music, snuggling on the couch with our dog, and playing with our daughter. I am a fibro warrior, a former chemistry teacher, I love watching college football (go aggies!), and I love being a SAHM. Connect with me on Facebook for more adventures!

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