Wholeness Healing Today

Provide Your Young Children With A Screen-Free Environment

Provide Your Young Children with a Screen Free Environment

By Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW

I often talk to couples and families who come in for therapy about the role the television plays in their lives. Specifically, I am asking the couple to describe how the family eats their meals together, what bedtime rituals are for the children and the couple, and how the television and other medias dominates their family culture. T.V. has become a constant presence in our daily life.  Many families have the television(s) on constantly and they remain on through meal times, even when the family still sits down at the table to eat together. Often, however, meal times are not at the dinner table, but in front of whatever television the family member chooses, even in separate rooms. Today’s children have televisions and computers in their rooms to allow for all the family members to have access to a television or computer game of their individual preference to watch or video games and movies to be played.  Add the IPad, IPods, and Xbox into all of this and we have exponentially created more options than we can imagine. This means that everyone in the family, including the very young children, is watching more and more varieties of screens and electronic media.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) came out with the recommendation that children two years and younger need to be playing, not watching television and other media screens. (Rettner, 2011) The AAP states that there is no evidence that proves that children this young can benefit even from learning programs. What they do know is that watching television at bedtime can lead to poor sleep habits and irregular sleep schedules. They also state that media exposure to young children is associated with delayed language development. (Health News from MedPage Today, 2011) The background noise of the TV is said to cause attention problems and disruption to children during their play.

The AAP is recommending that our young children have play time with their parents whenever possible and to provide unstructured play time supervised with independent play when it is not possible to have direct interaction and engagement. (Health News from MedPage Today, 2011) Play and interaction with others are two of the primary developmental needs for a child as he grows and begins to learn how the world works.

The best way a child learns is through interaction with humans. Children need physical attention from their parents and this is especially critical during the first three years of life. The social environment is critical to the child’s development and his mastery of his first developmental stage of trust versus mistrust. The child’s experience of his world is about his environment of relationships. These relationships affect all aspects of the child’s development – intellectual, social, emotional, physical, behavioral, and moral. The quality of these relationships lay the foundation for the child’s later developmental outcomes.  It is through these early relationships that the child develops his self-confidence, self worth, and view of the world. The more family involvement and relationships, the more the brain develops. This early brain development is actually building the brain architecture for the rest of the child’s brain development. It is foundation through which the brain builds on to develop.

Research shows that 40-50% of the children we are raising are insecurely attached children. This foundation is set in these early years of the child’s life. The parent is the secure base that the child uses to learn to explore and move into the world. Through this secure base, the biology of the brain is built. This is what the child needs to be able to learn. The young child needs laughing, eye contact, touch, movement and reciprocal interaction from parent to child and child to parent.  This builds the safe base, the secure attachment.

It is time to consider what we want for our children. In this world of technology we have to remember that the early development revolves around social interaction and play.  Give the child quiet in the home with the television turned off and spend time being present with your young child. It will build a deep relationship that will set your child up for success as he moves out into the world beyond his parents and family.

Works Cited

Health News from MedPage Today. (2011, October 18). AAP: ‘Screen-free’ environment best for toddlers. Retrieved November 5, 2011, from Everyday Health.

Rettner, R. (2011, October 18). Kids under 2 should play, not watch TV, doctors say. Retrieved November 5, 2011, from Live Science.

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  • Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
    Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner

  • Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.


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