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  • Writer's pictureLaurel P. Jackson, PhD

Nurturing Body, Mind and Screentime

Updated: Jun 1, 2023

To screen or not to screen is no longer the question

In recent years, discussions around screen time for pre-schooled children evoked feelings of shame and judgment for many. It was nearly as polarising as discussion on politics.

There were those, including myself (I readily admit) who were strongly opposed to feeding my children with a diet that included anything more than a nibble of media. We focused on the potential harmful effects and argued that

“We didn’t grow up watching television, and I turned out ok. It just can’t be good for you” . While there were those on the other side of the discussion, who interwove digital media seamlessly within their lives and hardly gave it a second thought. "We grew up watching television all the time, and I turned out ok. It can’t be bad.”

As caregivers, our own parenting philosophy and views are often a reflection of how we were parented. It turns out that both sides were correct. Research suggests that digital media can pose both threats and benefits for pre-school children. It all depends on how it is used (Gordon-Hacker and Gueron-Sela, 2020, Myers et al., 2017, Rocha and Nunes, 2020). 2020 collapsed the bridge, and we were all catapulted into the same playing field. Everyone around the entire globe were stuck in their homes with their children and we were left with little choice but to befriend and embrace what became the pink elephant in the living room and in the bedroom and in the kitchen and everywhere.


Digital media is an inescapable aspect of our children’s lives.

The question we need to ask ourselves is: how can we make their media lives more meaningful, and nurture their digital media habits (which will more than likely increase as they get older).

I suggest five ways in which you can begin to implement and infuse a healthy digital media diet into your household.

  1. Choose Intentionally. We are all intentional about how we feed our little children to ensure that they receive proper nutrition. In a similar vein, we should be equally as intentional about how we feed their minds. The first few years of a child’s life is foundation. It is when the brain is most malleable and impressionable. This is the stage that lays the foundation for the rest of their lives. This is the time to get it right. You might choose shows that address certain skills, or values that you want to emphasize with your children. Be aware of the messages that are being expressed throughout the media that your child will consume. The essence is all about the quality of the media that you choose. (Common Sense Media, American Academy of Pediatrics)

  2. Use some Screen Time as Bonding Time A good friend of mine told me recently that she loves watching shows with her 6-year old daughter. “It’s our time to bond. I get to see the world from my daughter’s perspective, because of the comments she makes, the questions she asks and the things that she sees.” Similar to reading to your child, co-watching can be engaging and bonding.

  3. Integrate the Media Themes into your Lives through Discussion Following from the first point above, you can use digital media as educational springboards to delve deeper into the topics. For example, if a character in a show displays a behaviour that is favourable or unfavourable, you can discuss the behaviour with your children and talk about why it might be good or not good. The possibilities are endless for learning (Rasmussen et al., 2016, Strouse and Ganea, 2021).

  4. Practice Moderation It is important that children understand boundaries in all aspects of life. Using digital media as a way to foster and create habits around consumption and boundaries is powerful and goes a long way. Create expectations as to what they can watch and for how long and stick to it. This will help them to create habits around their media consumption, and something that is becoming a life-long skill as they get older.

  5. Isolate Media Time from Meal time Too often children (and adults) love to accompany digital media consumption with snacks or meals. While this can be very comforting, it can have detrimental effects. Eating while watching can easily slip into unhealthy eating habits, and obsessive screen time, which becomes more difficult to break as the child gets older. So, this is the time to create those boundaries and isolate screen time from other activities.


We will all make compromises, as we strive for these ideal states as caregivers. At nurture, we aim to create quality, engaging, and non-guilty screen time with families as they learn about the skills that we think they will most need for this future.

At nurture we aim to create quality, engaging, and non-guilty screen time with families as they learn about the skills that we think they will most need for this impredicteble future.

Resources

Research

Rasmussen et al., 2016, Strouse and Ganea, 2021


 

About the Author: Dr. Laurel Paula Jackson is nurture’s VP Caregiver Learning. She is a perpetual learner, who holds degrees from Oxford and Cambridge Universities in Education, and a doctoral degree in Education from the University of London. Dr. Laurel has spent the past fifteen years working with schools and educational institutions around the world as an advisor and Edtech founder. More recently, she has been an educational coach with a focus on 21st century skills, nutrition and wellness, speaks on issues related to sustainability and writes children’s books that inspire readers to think about the connection between people, place and planet.




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