The impact of TV on young children

I know it is such a joy to share a great movie with your kids or to enjoy a good TV program with them. It can activate their imagination and storytelling and they really enjoy some of the characters. However, I want to point out to you that even a small amount of screen time can have a detrimental effect on a child’s behaviour and engagement. We are conducting a large scale experiment on children to which we don’t fully know the impact on their development when we allow them too much access to screens and TV.

It’s also a large money making machine. It’s easy to entice little minds with these stories and characters and we as parents should take care to resist some of it. Just because companies continue to brand things for children and continue to make more TV for little ones, doesn’t mean that we should allow all of it.

Recently, we have finally seen some studies with evidence that it really isn’t a good idea, for especially preschoolers to spend much time in front of the screens. There isn’t always agreement on how much or how little, but there is always agreement that these children need to move and are in a sensitive period of the hand: meaning they need to touch and experience and actively learn from adults, competent peers or materials (in 3-D) in their environment. When we offer too much TV or offer the TV as opposed to offering time with us or concrete experiences in the environment, we essentially remove the main way that preschoolers should learn.

A recent study pointed towards a correlation between autism and screen time in specifically boys. It was shocking news for us as educators, but the nature via nurture evidence is stacking. Children with certain predispositions or traits are likely to activate instead of mitigating the expression of learning difficulties and pervasive developmental problems when we offer screen time too early.

Let’s take a moment to reflect on our practices in our families, the lack of evidence and agreement on screen time in early childhood and the dangerous large scale experiment unfolding in our society today.

I’ve been in the game for 20 years and I remember asking teachers who had been in the game for more than 40 years about the impacts of modern society on children’s learning and behavior when I first started my teaching career. The longer you teach, the more obvious it becomes: we should take care to provide a learning environment at home and at school that doesn’t buy into a culture or excess and overstimulation.

I’ve recently seen some problems unfolding also in our school, which I believe is a direct impact of screen time and TV programs. Let’s make these years count! They are essential in children’s brain development.

I hope this letter implores you to rethink screens and access to TV for your children and that you find a happy medium or some compromise regarding these matters!