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What's an appropriate amount of screen time for babies?

Published on Jan 20, 2022. By Amy Roach
baby and toddler watching tv with mom

How much screen time is too much is undoubtedly one of the top concerns for parents today. Though you’ll likely be fighting about that with your little one in just a few years, right now you’re probably wondering, what’s an appropriate amount of screen time for babies? Maybe you’ve even had some debates with other parents—or your own parents or in-laws!—over is tv bad for baby, and you want to make the most informed decision. 

This review of what the experts think is sure to be helpful.

In this article:

  • When can babies watch tv?
  • Is TV bad for babies?
  • What’s the best way to practice screen time for babies?
  • When can babies watch tv?

Before you explore when can babies watch tv, it’s good to understand what’s going on in babies’ brains at the beginning of their lives—and how screen time can interfere.

Most of a babies’ brain development happens during the first two years of their lives. So, during that time, it’s crucial for them to be interacting with the world around them, and not as much with the world on the screen.

That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no screen time at all for babies during the first year and a half of their lives. Of course, that can be hard to abide by in today’s world where screens are ever-present and our busy lives mean that sometimes screen time-as-babysitter can be a godsend. 

Ultimately, the issue of when can babies watch tv is one where you’ll have to weigh out the pros and cons and come to an answer that you’re comfortable with. Here are the AAP’s recommendations:

  • Birth to 18 months: No screen time
  • 18 to 24 months: Babies can start to enjoy some limited screen time
  • 2 years and up: No more than 1 hour per day

Is TV bad for babies?

What are the specific concerns around giving babies screen time? Limiting screen time is not just about feeling guilty that you’re not being the best possible parent. There are some ways in which too much screen time can have a detrimental effect on developmental milestones for your little one.

Here are some of the main issues:

  • Language development: Though it’s tempting to think that being exposed to hearing people talk during screen time could help baby pick up words, studies have shown screen time can actually hinder language acquisition.
  • Social and emotional development: Face-to-face, physical connection is so important for babies’ social and emotional development, and experts believe that too much screen time limits that off-screen bonding time.
  • Overstimulation: Babies’ rapidly developing understanding of their five senses, and the world around them, can lead to easy overstimulation. The high levels of sensory stimulation that emanate from screens are thought to be more than babies can—or should—readily handle.
  • Sleep disturbances: Overdosing on screens can also lead to sleep issues for babies and toddlers. Multiple studies have shown that even as early as 6 months old, the more time children spend in front of a screen, the less sleep they get.

What’s the best way to practice screen time for babies?

Once you’ve decided that you’re ready to introduce your baby or toddler to screen time, it’s important to consider the best ways to go about it. The overwhelming advice from experts is that “passive screen time”—handing over a tablet or phone and allowing baby to watch unsupervised—should be avoided entirely. 

Here are the best practices for making screen time a more positive experience for your baby:

  • Make sure you select age-appropriate material. Select educational and age-directed content to share with your baby. Whether it’s a TV program, online videos or other digital material, check first to make sure it’s something that fits your baby’s developmental stage. It’s easy to search online for recommendations and to see what doctors and educators have to say about various tv offerings and apps for babies and kids.
  • Watch together. Try to always be with your baby during screen time. That way, you can repeat words you hear to try to enhance language development, reinforce any messages that the show is sharing, and/or talk with baby about what you see to help them better understand what they are watching. 
  • No screens right before bedtime—too much stimulation will make it harder for them to fall asleep.
  • Set a good example. Monitor your own screen time when you are with your baby and try not to leave screens on in the background as it can distract from other interactions. 

If you're looking for ways to reduce screen time and play together, consider renting a toy box from Loop. We have hundreds of age-appropriate toys for you to enjoy with your baby.

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