Guidelines for Media Use in Toddlers

Two experts on child development have released their research-based guidelines to help parents understand the impact of media use on very young children. The research includes tips about how much screen time is OK, parent participation, the effects of parental screen use, and more.

Rachel Barr, associate professor of psychology at Georgetown, worked with Claire Lerner of ZERO TO THREE, a national nonprofit that provides parents, professionals, and policymakers with research-based information on how to nurture early development.

In the guidelines, the researchers ask parents to limit background TV, choose content and programming carefully, and remove all screens from toddlers’ bedrooms.

“Over the past decade we have learned a great deal about how young children learn from screens and how both the content and context of their screen media experiences shape that learning,” says Barr, who has been researching this topic for the past decade at the Georgetown Early Learning Project.“

“We hope this summary of the research will be informative to parents, pediatricians, and early educators who have to navigate this rapidly changing technology.”

Barr and Lerner recently participated in a virtual news briefing to discuss their research.

Barr noted in the briefing that over the past 15 years, the amount of content available to young children has “exploded,” and that the research shows that “it’s not just the amount of exposure but the content of their exposure and the context of that exposure that’s crucial for learning.”

“Our take-home messages from the review of the literature for parents of young children are: participate and make screen use interactive, talk about what children are seeing, and encourage them to use their minds and bodies as they engage with the screen activity to maximize learning,” Barr explains.

“We hope to help children bridge the gap between content they are exposed to on screens and real-life experiences.”

Barr stressed how important it is that parents remain involved in their young children’s learning, noting that parents only talk with their toddlers 50 percent of the time while watching television and only 25 percent of the time while using mobile technology.

“The bottom line in terms of screens is we know from research that real 3-D experiences in the real world allow for richer social and physical exploration than screen experiences,” Lerner said.

“I think that really the take-home message from this report … is to be mindful. That we’re not in the business of telling parents what to do, we’re really in the business of helping parents make informed decisions.”

Source: Georgetown University

 
Mother using tablet with her young child photo by shutterstock.