What experts say and what grandparents can do about the amount of time young grandchildren spend in front of computer & TV screens
By “The Grammies”
A hot topic among many grandparents today is the increasing amount of “screen time” very young children have daily. Children under 5 years are not only watching TV but also looking at digital screens on computers, tablets, smart phones, and other electronic devices with screens, some designed for young children. And not only at home but also in cars, airplanes, restaurants, stores, even daycare centers.
There is no denying that these gadgets are entertaining. However, early childhood educators, savvy parents, and many grandparents are worried about the impact that hours and hours of screen time has on learning and social development . . . and with good cause.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time — at all — for children under 2 years and limiting screen time for preschoolers to no more than two hours a day.
The early years between birth and five are when children most need hands-on experiences. Their knowledge base grows daily from what they touch, smell, hear, see, and taste as they explore their world. Children need to be moving and to use all of their senses as their curiosity spurs them on to new discoveries.
Play is nature’s primary means for developing the brain, anthropologist Melvin Konner writes in The Evolution of Childhood. Children who sit passively in front of a screen are robbed of this valuable playtime.
Given a screen’s appeal and addictive quality, what can a grammie do when young grandchildren are in her care? Very simply, turn off the TV, put the electronic devices out of reach, and get down on the floor and play!
Offer toys that children love: balls, stuffed animals, blocks, small cars and trucks. Read, read, read to your grandchild, and talk about what may happen next in the story. Play hide-and-seek, ring around the rosy, and other age-appropriate games. Pull out boxes to crawl in, puzzles to build, dolls or teddy bears to interact with, or Play-Doh to create with.
Grammies can have an impact on this important issue. One antidote for too much screen time is an enthusiastic grammie armed with simple activities and the willingness to play.
You’ll find more ideas for screen-free fun in The Grammie Guide: Activities and Answers for Grandparenting Today.
The Grammies — Jan Eby, Laurie Mobilio, Lynne Noel, and Cindy Summers — are childhood educators who collectively claim bragging rights to 22 grandchildren.