Screen Time for Babies and Grownups

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children over the age of two spend no more than 2 hours per day with screen media, and children below two should have no screen time at all. My computer-phobic baby seems to agree. Do I have the same needs as she does?

My fourteen month old little girl hates my being on the computer. She will usually tolerate my being busy with other things, with other people, with cooking, lighting fires, hanging washing, playing musical instruments. I can even get away with reading for short periods of time. But when I disappear into that screen in the corner of the kitchen, she goes wild. It looks like jealousy. It looks as if she is experiencing some awful threat to her existence. She howls, clings to me for dear life and tries to pull the cables out.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children over the age of two spend no more than 2 hours per day with screen media, and children below two should have no screen time at all. The first two years of life are a critical time for brain development, when connections are being made within the brain, and time spent in passive absorption is time stolen from the exploration, social interaction and play which children need as they need to breathe. They need to play, explore, and interact in order to learn and develop their cognitive, verbal, physical, emotional and social skills.

The first two years of a child’s life, for me as a mother, are a kind of symbiosis. Throughout pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, mirroring, playing with and taking care of my baby I often feel that we are one organism separating and then coming back together again, and although I resist this with my adult mind, when I let myself go, her needs seem to be mine. When you come to think of it, shouldn’t we all have as our primary concerns to eat the right kinds, quality and amount of food and drink, get enough exercise and rest, plenty of sleep, to give and receive stimulation and unconditional love from others? Do I have to add complications like these screens? While I sit on the internet feeling that I am interacting, or playing, or working, my daughter reminds me that on a basic level what I am doing is sitting with my back to the living person in the room, allowing my energy to be drawn into a screen. While not necessarily demanding that I focus my attention exclusively on her, she demands that I move, speak, act. She demands my absolute presence. Somehow in her organism, she senses that this must be. And she’s right.

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