How Screen Time Can Affect Your Preschooler’s Brain Development

Living in a digital age, there has been an ongoing debate on when and if parents should be exposing their children to the world of electronics. From tablets to smartphones to even television, the tech list goes on and on. Of course, as parents, we only want to provide what’s best for our children. So how does screen time affect a child’s brain development?

The first five years of a child’s life are the most crucial time for the development of the brain. Early experiences impact brain development and influence the way in which the circuits of the brain become wired. A new MRI study found that children between the ages of 3-5 who used screens for more than the one hour a day recommendation without parental involvement had lower levels of development in the brain’s white matter. White matter is the area of the brain responsible for the development of language, literacy, and cognitive skills. 

Because of this, the World Health Organization has established new guidelines for children’s screen time. They suggest that children between the ages of 2-4 should have no more than one hour of screen time while children under the age of 1 should have no screen time at all. It is not the use of electronics itself that causes this “brain damage” but rather the amount of time a child spends on the screen.

There are a wide variety of early activities that can be implemented to positively impact a child’s brain development. Some of these include, but are not limited to:

  • Reading to kick starts language and communication skills
  • Arts and crafts to practice fine motor skills
  • Getting kids involved in activities they can assist you with such as cooking or gardening
  • Interactive play to spark imagination and creativity
  • Exploring the outdoors by going on a walk or hike

As caregivers, it is important that we show our children the value of problem-solving skills and social skills early on in life to enhance their development. We’d love to hear what activities you do in your own home to replace screen time!

Screen-free Week is here! What can you do?

Have you been worried about your child’s(or your own for that matter) screen time? As parents, we often wonder if we are doing the right things for our child. How will this affect them later in life? Will they blame me? Is this the right choice? And the list goes on and on. Although we can’t tell you when, what or how much screen time is appropriate, we can help you get some ideas to get away from the screens for a bit!

April 29th- May 5th is Screen-Free week! If this week doesn’t work for you, you can choose to implement in your home any week. In your home, when is screen time allowed? Is there a time limit on week nights? Weekends? Is there any designated screen- free time already? In our house, there are no screens during meal times. Period. That’s a start, right? I’m sure we can all agree we probably utilize screen time all too often for our children AND ourselves. Let’s talk about the benefits of limiting screen time and how we can do it!

Many early childhood experts and psychologists such as Jean Piaget and Erik Erikson highlight the importance of play for children’s development. Play helps children develop problem solving skills, social skills, their imagination and of course it enhances their physical development. Some concepts can only be taught through doing, such as textures or how to use scissors. Imagine if your child watched someone use scissors. They may know what it looks like to use scissors, but if given a pair they wouldn’t be proficient without having practice and good fine motor skills.

So what can we do as parents and educators to ensure this week of screen-free time is the best yet?

-We can offer new experiences our children may not have had before such as a cooking activity, gardening, or even helping mom or dad around the house in using tools with close supervision.

-We can go to new places we might not otherwise go such as a fruit stand, a local market or a hiking trail.

-We can engage in one-one or small group games or activities that require critical thinking skills such as board games.

Only you can determine how much or how little screen time is appropriate for your child. Screen-free week is beneficial for so many reasons including giving you time to reflect on how much time you and your family actually spend looking at a screen versus talking and interacting with each other. This week can serve as a new beginning with new ideas on how you will utilize screen time moving forward.

We’d love to hear from you on what you do to replace screen time in your home, what fun things you were able to do this week without your screens and what new limits you may set moving forward! Comment below.

Important Internet Safety Warning: What You Need to Know

I want to preface this by saying, this is not the type of blog I want to be writing and it is graphic and detailed to protect your child.

As parents and educators, it’s our life’s purpose to ensure our children are safe, happy and healthy individuals. What seems like a harmless leisure activity could take a downward turn resulting in harm to your child’s physical or mental state. You guessed it! I’m talking about screen time. I’m sure we can all admit, although we don’t encourage screen time, there are times when we allow it. Whether it be for our child’s own gratification or to give ourselves a couple minutes of quiet (Don’t be afraid to admit it, we all do it!). But what are our kids really watching when they engage in “safe-sites” such as Kids YouTube? Probably watching some of their favorite cartoons, someone unbox the newest surprise toy or an informative video on colors, numbers, shapes. etc. We’ve all glanced over their shoulders to take a peek and all seems harmless. But what if it’s not?

In recent news there have been reports videos that show your child’s favorite character taking pills, passing out and another character crying over the body or a man showing children how to self-harm and then proceeds to encourage them to “end it”. Unfortunately, it only gets worse…

 There have also been reports of new “challenges” such as the “Momo Challenge”. In short, a creepy doll head pops up in your child’s video clip usually about 4 minutes into the video and begins to tell your child to do harmful things such as stick a fork in a socket, take all your mom’s medicine or turn the oven on when your parents are asleep… just to name a few. Momo then tells your child if they tell anyone about her or what she talked to the about, she will kill them while they sleep and kill their family. Scared yet?

Although sites like YouTube Kids are trying to take every measure they can to weed these videos out, we as parents need to make sure we are doing our part to protect our kids. Here are some tips to help:

  • Only allow trusted apps.
  • Abstain from use all together.
  • Watch with your child and report any inappropriate content immediately.
  • Talk with your child about if they’ve seen or heard anything and what to do if they do.
  •  Choose other outlets for downtime such as books /e-books, coloring, board games, etc.

I’ve attached the link to an article for a visual and some additional information on specifics. Please use your discretion when viewing. I would Not recommend viewing in front of your child. If you fear your child may have come across Momo or any of these harmful videos, I would recommend the following.

  1. ASK your child if they know who Momo is. Do NOT show them her picture quite yet in case they have not seen her. No need to subject them to the image if they aren’t familiar.
  2. Use your judgement in determining if your child’s answer was truthful; after all, Momo did threaten them not to tell anyone. If your child seems anxious, uncomfortable or you have other reason to believe they aren’t being truthful, let them know it’s okay to talk to you about it and if they had seen Momo, she isn’t real and someone is playing a mean trick on them. If you still feel your child is still not being truthful, use your judgement if now would be an appropriate time to show them Momo’s picture.
  3. If your child does admit that they know who Momo is, ask them what she has told them, where they saw her and how they feel about it all. Reassure them that she is not real and someone is just playing a mean trick on them.
  4. Be sure you are careful in your words and reactions so you don’t unintentionally scare your child or make them uncomfortable in talking with you about this issue or anything in the future.
  5. Use your discretion as a parent to know if you should or should not show your child Momo’s picture as a precaution in case they come across her in the future.
  6. Talk with your child about what to do if they see or hear something that is not nice, hurtful or dangerous whether it be from a video, app, a friend, an adult or even a stranger.

Link for more information:

WARNING: Viewer Discretion Advised