Digital Babies Catching Air

tense mom with baby and cell phone
If you put a smartphone in many a preschooler’s hands, chances are they’ll show you how to change your ringtone, play a game, call grandma, take a selfie, or text a friend. Today’s young children are growing up in a digital world. Digital babies are now having digital babies! And that means parents have the additional challenge of managing screen time – for their child and for themselves.

For a great many adults, it’s become a daily norm to use a smartphone, right? You use your phone to help navigate your world – your appointments, your kids’ appointments, finding the closest Dutch Bros., checking on homework for school age children, getting the weather forecast, getting tips from text4baby, and keeping up friendships by “liking” your bestie’s latest Instagram pic, tweet, or Facebook post. And then there’s using a computer or tablet, playing video games, and watching television. So, when do you come up to catch some visual air?

When you become a mother or father, you make a big shift to considering your child’s needs first. That can mean switching your focus from a screen to engaging your little one – without placing the screen in their hands.

Kelly Doty is the screen time manager for two sons and director at Youth for Change (Paradise, CA). She’s up to speed on the “why” and “how” of screen time management. She says, “Watching television or playing with a tablet or smartphone can’t replace the human interaction, bonding, and communication that children need for optimal early development.” She knows from personal experience that “Modern parenting includes managing your child’s screen time, maintaining a balance between your child’s digital world and real-world relationships, experiences, and activities.”

According to a 2016 Nielsen Company audience report, adults in the United States spend just under 11 hours a day consuming media! Just a couple of years back, highly-respected Internet analyst Mary Meeker broke it down to minutes in this chart shared by Quartz.

This 2014 data indicated Americans were spending an average of 444 minutes a day looking at screens; 147 minutes of TV, 103 minutes at a computer, 151 minutes on a smartphone, and 43 minutes with a tablet. These statics aren’t something to be shrugged off when you have a vulnerable infant counting on you. This is when you rise to the challenge of change.

Doty says, “Babies and young children learn best from people, not technology. I support the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation for no screen time for babies from birth to 18 months. A screen can’t give them what you can. Talk, read, sing, and play with your children and you’ll build secure relationships, critical neural connections
in their brain, and their fundamental skills.”

You can still make good use of your digital tools without sharing them with babies and young children. What your child needs most, especially during the 0-to-5 period of foundational brain development, simply can’t be found in a screen.

YOU are your child’s favorite thing, his comfort, her food source, first playmate, first teacher…. Engaging your precious infant, playing with your toddler, reading and hopping and singing with your young child – it’s the new norm. Cell phones are soooo last year.

About Deborah Peel

Writer, blogger, marketer, mother, lover of big trees and isolated mountain tops. I'm passionate about the pathway to success that First 5 Shasta is building for young children. Our grantees, partners, and caring community members all contribute to this critical early childhood investment. Together, we make the pathway strong!
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