Watching TV with your baby
It’s natural to worry about how much time your young child spends in front of a screen. Some argue that exposing young children to tablets, TV or computers can only be bad. The experience of many parents, however is that educational programmes and apps can help with early years learning and prove useful in the build up to school.
Although some experts recommend limiting screen time or even avoiding it altogether for very young children, Professor Lydia Plowman from the University of Edinburgh believes detailed evidence that screen time is bad for children is lacking.
Her extensive research into young children and technology found when used in moderation, technology can be a valuable tool to support children’s development.
Here are some tips that will help you to ensure that your little one's use of screens helps, rather than hinders, their development.
- Try not to leave an older baby alone with a screen. They need interaction to develop so watch with them and talk about what they’re watching.
- Try to limit the amount of screen time young children have - a few minutes at a time is enough for very young children.
- Make sure the content is aimed directly at their age group. CBeebies programmes are designed for the very young and are created in close consultation with early years experts. The repetition of the programmes allows children to mimic the actions and offers an opportunity to respond.
- Try not to have the TV on as ‘background noise’. It’s hard for children to filter different sounds out, so for them to develop good listening skills they need to be able to focus on whatever they’re listening to – i.e. you!
- It’s a good idea to take the activities seen on the screen into the real world. You can use the songs and actions you’ve watched together and interpret them in the real world as part of your play together.
Using games and apps on your devices
Professor Plowman says worries about the length of time your children use screens are natural. But the involvement of family members can make short periods of screen time more constructive. The key is guided interaction.
Preparation before using a game, suggestions and help offered by an adult during the experience and a follow-up activity can make the difference between a passive activity and a learning one. Using a kitchen timer or a mobile phone stopwatch can also make it clear how much time will be allowed on the device.
Shared experiences could include creating an on-screen album of fun pictures, using video-calling technology to communicate with loved-ones.
Professor Plowman adds that while shared experiences on a device can aid development, independence is also good for children. The advice however is stick to the sites you trust. And there is one area where the experts agree – sleep is sacred, so put the screens away before bedtime as the light they emit won’t be good for sleep – including yours!
TV shows, computers and tablets can offer a shared experience for you both to enjoy. Your child will want to copy you, passing on vital skills and letting you have fun together.
Using a computer with your baby
Using a computer with an older baby can be a shared experience that you both enjoy.
Your child will certainly want to copy you, hitting the keyboard (you may need to hold their hands or give them something to grasp to prevent this). For a short time at least, you can have some fun together.
Here are some suggestions:
- You could go through some photos together and name the people in them. (You can put together an on-screen album of pictures you know your baby will like.)
- You could watch some short video clips together - there are stories and songs on the CBeebies website which you could explore.
- Or, you could try a simple game - e.g. one using the space bar or touch screen only (your baby won't manage to click a mouse or use arrow keys) - but with you holding their hands should manage some easy games.
Professor Plowman adds that while shared experiences on a device can aid development, independence is also good for children. The advice however is stick to the sites you trust.
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