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Screen Time for Infants/Young Children Not a Good Idea

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One expert says using screen time as a pacifier for babies and very young children is not a good idea. Gary Crawford has more.

Audio file

PARTICIPANTS: Gary Crawford. Kansas State University Child Development Specialist Bradford Wiles. Buffalo Bob Smith of Howdy Doody fame.


Let's go back to the early 1950s when television was the big new technology which had dozens of shows scores of them for kids. And even then child development experts were warning about the amount of time the kids were spending in front of the screen. Some were worried about the possible physical mental and emotional effects too much screen time would have on kids. So now let's fast forward to the present where we don't just have one little TV screen in the house.

We've got screens everywhere, so everything from the self checkout station at the grocery store to you know reading a book on a tablet or TVs or smartphones, but it's it's all of those things. That's Kansas State University child development specialist Bradford Wiles Now this story really was inspired by an experience.

I had the other day at a restaurant I was there with a young couple who brought in their baby and whenever the baby would get just a little squirmy or act like he was going to cry the parents would put a cartoon or something on a smartphone and give it to the baby just hand it to him and The baby would watch for a while and then start squirming again. The parents would then change the cartoon hand the phone back to the baby and the cycle would start all over again. Bradford Wiles says this is wrong on so many levels.

There are some really important risks that come from screens for young children.

It's really around obesity and a lack of social skills. So, flatly, if you're in your screen and your child is in their screen, you're not interacting and young children need to be able to see people's faces. They need to be able to interpret the voice with the face to understand what is meant. So Wiles says in a perfect world children younger than two shouldn't have any screen time. None at all.

Wow judging from what I've seen this is asking plenty from a parent trying to get groceries in the house and keep the house clean and do laundry and take care of an infant - okay if you need ten minutes fine. But the issue there is twofold first once you introduce it. Then much like any new shiny toy the child is going to want it more and more and more and secondly by using screen time as a sort of pacifier for the baby by doing that you're depriving that child of learning about their world, you know. We say that play is the work of early childhood and looking at a screen is the is the antithesis of play. It is the most sedentary most unengaged thing one can do.

Wiles says too much screen time is bad for all of us, whatever our age. So next time we've got some tips for cutting screen time down to size.

Gary Crawford reporting for the US Department of Agriculture.