Summer Challenge: UNPLUG!

 Pretty much everyone admits they probably spend to much time at home in front of their TV. computer, tablet or phone.  So here’s a summertime challenge!  Increase your active participation in play and
parenting by UNPLUGGING FROM YOUR ELECTRONICS! I’ve noticed too many parents constantly tuned into their own
electronic devices (Candy Crush, anyone?) or using electronics as a babysitter
for their children easily keeping them quiet and occupied…until you try to
take it away, then it’s Meltdown City!


Did you know since
1998 the American
Academy of Pediatrics has
recommended 2 hours (or LESS) of screen time per day for school aged children? Infants and toddlers (under age
2) should not be spending ANY time in front of screens (television, movies,
video games, iPad, etc.)! Why? Young children do not have symbolism in order to
understand the picture on the screen is a representation of a real person or
object. They do not have the ability to learn from the language (tone of voice,
inflection, etc), body language, and fast paced auditory and visual input that
is glowing on the screen. In fact, there are concerns that television actually
rewires the brain through over-stimulation! It is important to remember that
many children may be much older than age 2 before symbolism is reached
(especially children with Autism Spectrum Disorder). Despite these
recommendations, very young children are constantly the focus of many marketing
schemes (Baby Einstein, Leap Frog, VTech, etc). Please consider that toy
manufacturers are looking to make a profit and are not experts at child
development! Slap the word “learning” onto an electric screen and
sales go up regardless of long term risks.


Research has not been
able to keep up with our technology boom. Most of the research I found is only
focused on the effects of television and movies. We do not even know the long
term effects of using so many electronic screens at such young ages and so
frequently throughout the day which is negatively impacting play and social
interaction (both with peers and with parents). Even when only parents are
absorbed into the digital world, or if the TV is on “in the background”
there are negative effects.


My primary concern is
the lack of reciprocal interaction, shared attention/engagement, and
communication between parent and child. One study found that for every hour of
television watched per day the child had a 10% higher risk of developing
attention problems. Another study found that the parent used 770 LESS words to
interact with their child while the TV was on. Risks of high electronic usage
include: increased aggression, poor emotional regulation, decreased attention
(higher risk of ADHD), delayed language development, obesity, reading
difficulties, irritability/fussiness, decreased executive functioning (defined
as self regulation and working memory), decreased creativity and “self
talk”, and poor sleep.


Bottom line: Eliminate electronics
if under age 2 (this includes preschool products such as LeapFrog); limit
screens to 2 hours per day (or less) for school aged children; and remove the
TV from the bedroom!

GO PLAY TOGETHER!                                                
 Amanda Masters, MS, OTR/L
TherapyWorks Clinic Therapist



American Academy of Pediatrics  (

“The Immediate
Impact of Different Types of Television on Young Children’s Executive
Functioning” by: Angeline S. Lillard and Jennifer Peterson

Self-Regulation and Early Childhood Media Exposure” by: Jenny S. Radesky,
Michael Silverstein, Barry Zuckerman and Dimitri A. Christakis

“The effects of
infant media usage: what do we know and what should we learn?” By: Dimitri
A. Christakis (ActaPædiatrica2009;98,pp.8–16)

“It’s official:
TV linked to attention deficit” by : Jean Lotus