What is too much screen time?

Last week I realised that James has learnt how to scroll an iPad.   I wasn’t sure whether to be impressed or ashamed.  Have I been allowing him to have too much screen time?

I think it is important that in this day in age he is familiar with how to use technology, maybe not at 20 months, but I think it is something he needs to learn.  James has my iPad (which is now his) in his bedroom, as we use it to play white noise all night.  I first started using it for programs when he would no longer keep still to change his nappy.  I found if I put the iPad on he would watch that and I could change his nappy without him wriggling all over the place and screaming.  He has always been a fan of the Clangers so I began by playing that for him.


In fact, the Clangers has been our go to program for a long time.  Whenever he needed calming down we would put the Clangers on TV, the iPad, or my phone if we were out and it would settle him.  I even used to let him watch the Clangers on my phone if he woke up in the night.  I know that probably goes against all sleep advice, but he would wake up so distressed and me cuddling him would not calm him down.  The Clangers was the only thing that would stop him from crying.  It worked, so that is what I would do until he looked like he was near to falling back asleep.  He used to cry when I put him back in the cot, but would usually soon settle back to sleep.  I like to think that the Clangers used to cheer him up and give him something nice to focus on before he went back to sleep.  These days we are lucky and he rarely wakes up in the night, and the last time he did I didn’t put the Clangers on.  We are past that now, but when we needed it, it really helped us.

The Clangers and In the Night Garden are the only two programs James will actually watch properly.  Other programs he is only interested in the theme tunes and then he loses interest.  His love of the Clangers however, is starting to fade.  He is much more interested in things on YouTube.  The first thing he watched on YouTube was Mr Tumble’s Nursery Rhymes.  James loved this, for a while.  The thing with YouTube is that when one program finishes it will automatically go onto something else.  This is how we stumbled across Super Kids TV, where he will happily watch cars and trucks do various things.  To me it looks incredibly dull, but I tell myself it’s fine because it is teaching him colours and shapes.  He has also just started watching Baby Bum TV (strange name) and finds the characters in the nursery rhymes hilarious.

Having said this he doesn’t tend to sit and watch these programs for a long period of time.  We have YouTube on our TV and he usually stands in front of the TV watching it for a while, or climbing all over the furniture and will then go off and play and come back to it later.


Sometimes I feel guilty and think he is watching too much TV.  The first time he watches anything in the day is after breakfast.  I put the iPad on in his bedroom while I get him ready and then finish getting ready myself.  The problem I have is that he knows that I can fast forward things and change the program just by touching the screen.  If he is not happy with what I have put on, he grabs my finger and moves it to the screen for me to change it, thinking I am psychic and should know exactly what he wants to watch.  I am torn by thinking that yes technology today allows you to have what you want fairly instantly, but also don’t want him to expect that he can have everything so quickly.  He needs to learn to have some patience. He also has toys in his bedroom, so although the iPad is on he is not always watching it and will go and play with his toys or look at his books, or follow me around.  Once we are ready to go out the iPad only comes back on for nappy changes, but he will watch TV after his nap and after his tea.

There have been times where we have allowed him to watch TV at mealtimes.  We found if he had something else to focus on he would eat more and it would calm him down if he was kicking off.  On occasions we have allowed James to watch something on my phone in restaurants.  I used to judge people who did this and think that I would never do that with my child, but what a surprise I do, like a  lot of people.  I think the people that judge would actually much prefer that I did this, than for them to have to listen to my child screaming the place down,  although we would probably get judged for that too.  As James has got older we haven’t had to rely on the phone as much, as now he is usually happy with looking around, throwing things on the floor repeatedly for us to pick up or playing with colouring pencils.  However, that could change again as he gets older.

At the moment, I don’t think James watches too much TV.  I think the amount of screen time children have is down to their parents, and whatever works for them.  We have always used it as and when we needed it.  Yes children today may watch screens a lot more than when we were younger, but times have changed and more things are available.  I just like to make sure that we try to strike a balance and make sure that James also gets plenty of time outdoors as well.


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