Baby's First Year · Parenting

Screen time and Babies

Parent sitting in bed holding sleeping baby while checking mobile phone

We know that babies and young children learn best from us and from social interaction. With all the technology available, people are using devices with their babies. In fact, 92% of parents report that their 1 year old has already used a mobile device, some starting as young as 4 months.

Earlier this year, I wrote a post on “Screen time and preschool children” and I’ve had questions asking if there is information on the impacts of screen time on babies.

As I myself prepare to go on maternity leave, one fact that has really stuck with me is:

Research shows 80% of a child’s brain development occurs in the first 3 years- parent-child interaction is what stimulates the brain!

Ways to help tune into our babies instead of devices:

Don’t worry if some chores get delayed, or if the laundry is done. Instead, enjoy the time you have with your child. When you make choices to simplify your time, it allows you to spend more time with your baby and focus on those moments of joy and interaction.

  • Go back to the basics

Explore activities/toys that do not have any electronic components (e.g., lights and sounds). Although these toys can help catch baby’s attention, they can also be distracting to both baby and parent. Parents may use less language and participate less as the toy takes over the interaction. Instead, try people games.

  • Explore books

Use simple books, and not digital versions.

Add language and sing songs while giving baby a bath, getting baby dressed, changing diapers etc.

  • Limit distractions

Studies show that when the TV is on in the background, parents model and use less language in an interaction than when there are no distractions which may delay early language development.

Don’t forget to take time for yourself. When baby is sleeping, tune in to your favourite show, send that email, or scroll on your device. You don’t have to stop screen time, just limit it when you are around baby.

Both the Canadian Paediatric Society and the American Pediatric Society do not recommend any screen time for children under 2 years of age.

Research indicates the following:

  • Baby’s brain can’t make sense out of the colours, movement or ideas presented on screens
  • Screen time before age 18 months can have negative effects on a baby’s language development, reading skills, short-term memory, attention, and sleep.
  • Babies exposed before 12 months and who watched more than 2 hours of TV a day are about 6 times more likely to have language delays later in life.

Enjoy the time you have with your baby and take in all the giggles and snuggles while they last!

If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s language development, connect with Early Abilities.

As of April 1, 2022 the Preschool Speech and Language, Blind-Low Vision and Infant Hearing programs have moved from Toronto Public Health (Early Abilities) to Surrey Place. To register for services or learn more about the programs, please visit Surrey Place or call 416-925-5141.

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