There are multiple studies that will back me up on this topic. Screens for babies, toddler and kids in general are like cocaine or other addictive drugs. I won't get into the specifics of the scientific research here because it can be slow reading but I can provide the necessary information later on for those who are interested. I want to get into the specifics of raising a baby and toddler without those screens and not die in the attempt (I am only going to talk about my own personal experience which is why I won't get into the older child). I have a 17 month old boy—a very active one. Since he was born, I have always strictly limited his access to media screens—not an easy job. Today, if you go to a restaurant they are full of giant screens on the walls or tablets on the tables. Well-meaning friends will offer to hold your baby and show them videos so the child won’t fuss. Well, I for one, do not want a zombie as a son! I want to limit how much damage I do to him as a parent (every parent damages their kids to a greater or lesser extent—just ask some teenagers). So what I have noticed that we (my husband and I) do differently:
- We always carry at least two different toys and a book.
- When we go out, we actually spend time talking WITH our son (I said WITH and not to, even he is a baby we can have a great conversation...he is a person).
- We play with him.
- We read at least six different books on a typical day.
- Music (dance, play instruments, listen, sing, “composed”...)
- We get tired...very tired!
I am not trying to criticize anyone—parenting is hard work. But every time I go to a restaurant and I see a quiet baby, toddler or child, it is because they are staring at a screen with a blank look on their faces. Their parents are usually focused on their own screen, talking or just not paying any attention to their children. And believe me, I know what it means to just disconnect and stop dealing with it. But seriously, a screen? Is it really necessary given all the information that is available to parents about how harmful it is?
We aren’t trying to put our son in a bubble, he actually knows that mommy and daddy use cellphones and he has seen TV. Whenever we go somewhere and it is full of screens, we don’t walk out because of that, but we always try to redirect his attention so that he can focus on things that are better for him. So, how do you do it? The library is your friend, act silly, read to them, go outside, dedicate a nice space for play, interact with them. Yes, it is true that you won’t have much time to yourself. If you are with friends, they will have to understand that your child is someone who needs/demands your attention and that is your priority. It is a given that the conversation will be interrupted several times (millions of times). But, instead of a zombie, you are going to have a bright, bubbling, enthusiastic and happy child. Isn't that what all parents want? Am I right? Oh, and if you decide to look further into the science as to exactly why screens are bad for children, look online and then look again. Consider the source. Too often, the information that is easily available has actually been paid for by the owners of television/media studios. It is in their best interest to get your child hooked on the various forms of media in order to increase advertising revenue, follow the money trail and don’t trust any of that. Look for unbiased research from sources that are independent of the media.