I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, I was told more times than I could count to go outside and play. Now that I’m an adult, I just don’t see that many children playing outside. Advances in technology that keep children glued to the TV, computer, iPhone or tablet are partly to blame as are concerns about safety, but regardless of reason, this is a troubling trend.
Why? Well, simply put, we know that studies have shown too much screen time keeps kids from developing their creativity and independence through self-directed imaginative and physical play. This, in turn, can impact their independence, self-reliance and confidence as young adults.
What’s the Right Amount of Screen Time?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children under two years old should not watch any TV, while children older than two should watch no more than one to two hours per day. What TV or other media is offered should be quality programming.
Why this recommendation? The first two years of a child’s life is a critical time for brain development. TV and other electronic media can get in the way of children exploring, playing, and interacting with parents and siblings, all of which promote healthy physical and social development. As children get older, too much TV and screen time interferes with physical activity, reading, homework, playing with friends, and spending time with family.
What’s the Reality?
According to kidshealth.org, two-thirds of infants and toddlers watch a screen of some sort an average of two hours a day. Kids under six watch an average of two hours of screen media a day, primarily TV/DVDs. Kids and teens age eight to eighteen spend nearly four hours a day in front of a screen and close to two additional hours on the computer (outside of school work) and/or playing video games. Wow.
What does all this screen time translate to? The American Academy of Pediatrics shares these alarming facts on its website:
- Children who spend more than 4 hours per day watching TV are more likely to become overweight.
- The average American child will witness 200,000 violent acts on TV by the age of 18.
- Children are constantly exposed to characters that depict risky behaviors, such as smoking and drinking.
- Children will see close to 40,000 commercials a year, many of which are for unhealthy foods.
What’s a Nanny’s Role?
All of the above can have a dramatic impact on a child. In our caregiving/nannying role, we should all work to get our charges away from the screen and outside as much as possible. But first, it’s important to discuss how your nanny family feels about screen time. If they haven’t thought about it, you have an opportunity to share with them the reasons why limiting screen time is so important. You can also share with them the benefits of outdoor play.
Fisher Price notes the following:
- Playing outside fosters a sense of well-being and builds self-confidence.
- Outdoor play promotes wholesome physical development, allowing kids to develop muscle strength and coordination.
- Active play allows children to gain social and communication skills by inventing new games with other children.
- Outdoor activities create memories that will last a lifetime!
By sharing this information with them, you can set appropriate limits together so that the children get a clear message when they are in your care that is consistent to the message they get when you are not there.
On the flip side, your nanny family might have very strict limits set on screen time. Getting these out in the open (and respecting them) early is critical.
It is also important to discuss what types of activities you’d like to do with your charges and what they entail. Make sure a family is comfortable if you plan to take your charge on public transportation or drive them in your car to go to a park, playground, museum or wherever! If they are nervous, demonstrate that you have plan in place for different contingencies.
So What Else Can You Do?
The biggest thing that you can do is to have a healthy attitude of your own toward screen time. Teaching good TV habits early and focusing on outside (or even inside) play is highly beneficial, and it will be much easier to do when you are working if you are also doing it at home. Here are some thoughts:
- Limit the amount of hours the TV is on in your home. This goes for parents too; we must lead by example! Try not to deviate from the rules you set up! Have plenty of books, toys, puzzles, and board games accessible.
- Keep TVs and the Internet out of bedrooms and off during meals.
- Stay off your phone/tablet during working hours unless the children are napping and your nanny family is ok with it.
- Treat TV as a privilege, not a right.
- Show up for work dressed for play!
- Make sure kids are prepared for outdoor activities (i.e. sunscreen, bug spray, water, and appropriate attire).
- Set playground rules that make sense given the age of your children/charges.
The long and the short of it is that children need to be outside. They need to move and exercise. While there is a place for TV and other media sources, too much can be detrimental to their development.
Nanny Sheri In 1987, Nanny Sheri Lopez graduated with a B.A. in Early Childhood Education and, in 1992, received a B.A. in Business. Over 32 years she has obtained certifications from 52 different programs, including: Certified Nursing Assistant, Certified Nanny Training, Certified Newborn Care Specialist Training, Certified Infant Massage Teacher, Certified Baby Signing Time Instructor, Certified American Red Cross CPR, first aid & AED Instructor, National Child Passenger Safety Technician Certification and she passed the International Nanny Association Basic Skills Exam, as well as the Credentialed Exam.