Updated: Jul 28, 2022
Not All Screen Time is Created Equal
We don't have to tell you that everything moved online when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Pandemic or no pandemic, screen time, and what to do about it, remains a question on parents' minds.
Instead of limiting or eliminating all screen time equally, if we dig deeper and understand why passive screen time is harmful to our children, we will begin to see that not all screen time is negative. Our high-quality, interactive music classes in Spanish for babies and toddlers online are designed with all of this in mind.
Why Passive Screen Time is Harmful: 3 main takeaways
1) It replaces the good stuff
The truth is, for every moment children are in front of a passive screen, they are not moving, playing, or having human interaction. It’s this loss of interaction with our real, three-dimensional world that has the most severe impact on cognitive, social, and emotional development in children.
“What too much screen time leads to is a variety of missed opportunities for learning and development…When a child is watching a screen, he or she is missing out on the opportunity for walking, talking and interacting with others” Sheri Madigan, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Calgary in Canada in this article from TIME Magazine.
➡ That's why Mi Casa Es Tu Casa®'s At-home Spanish Music Program is designed to be a replica of our in-person classes. Our teachers are constantly reminding caregivers to imitate their movements and to sing along (subtitles help!). Remember, you set the example for your child and they will follow.
2) It affects attention span, emotional development, and sleep
Attention Span: One Netflix episode ends, and before you know it, another one has begun. Even within the show itself, the rapid, consecutive cuts from one scene to another, groom our children to expect the same level of stimulation in their day-to-day lives. Children have to practice sustained attention to tolerate frustration, and—heaven forbid! —boredom.
➡ Mi Casa Es Tu Casa®'s intentional online program has very few cuts and incorporates large, slow animation with the purpose of conveying meaning without requiring translation into English.
Emotional Development: Children need real-time, in-person interactions to understand their own emotions and those of others. Seeing a character on a show become sad because they lost a toy is nothing compared to taking a toy from a friend and seeing his or her face in person grow frustrated. It’s nothing compared to experiencing that friend then try to grab the toy back from you.
➡ For this reason our online program is designed for parents to do with their child. You are providing the human interaction both with your child and with the teachers and characters on screen.
Sleep: You’ve probably heard about blue light, that harsh glow that comes from our phones and computers as we absorb news, shows, and email throughout the day and, sometimes, right before bed. Sometimes (gasp), in bed. It’s the same for our children. Screens make it more difficult for kids to fall asleep, and result in lower quality sleep.
You get to decide when your child engages with a screen. We, of course do not recommend making screens a part of your bedtime routine,
3) It is sedentary
Last year the World Health Organization released new guidelines for sleep, screen time, and physical activity in children under 5 years old. As you can imagine, passive screen time is a main contributor to childhood obesity because it is so sedentary.
You can read more about the effects of media on children in the report “Media and Young Minds” from Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
➡ Mi Casa Es Tu Casa®'s online Spanish music classes are any thing but sedentary! We get you up and dancing, bouncing around during lap songs, and using American Sign Language.
Take a peek at the popular "Chuchuwa" below!
How to Make Screen Time Positive: 5 easy steps to take
1) Be mindful of the way your children watch
By watching with your children, you can engage them by pointing things out, asking questions about how a character feels, and snuggling close; you’re turning a passive activity into an active one. With this support, the show can serve as a way for children to make connections and boost language development.
And as for when we engage in screen time, remember that getting good sleep is one of the most impactful ways to boost the immune system, and it’s a key part of any child’s healthy development. It’s best not to introduce screen time at least two hours before bed.
2) Be intentional about what your children watch
It’s hard to choose the right show for your children when they are there watching you scroll through the options yelling, “That one! That one!” Do your research before deciding to watch a show. Consult PBS or Common Sense Media for ideas. Choose shows that reflect the cultural diversity of the world around us.
We aren't always watching a show when we're using a screen. Storytelling and interactive
reading apps like FabuLingua offer children a chance to do screen time with parents or independently in an engaging setting. This app is designed to help children with reading skills while learning and practicing their Spanish.
"I love that it is positive scree time, I know my child is learning without any guilt." - Lizet, Mi Casa Es Tu Casa® Mama
3) Encourage interactive screen time
If there’s a face on the other end of the screen, especially someone your child knows and loves ( a faraway grandma, grandpa, uncle, cousin, or friend), it doesn’t count as harmful screen time. I love the subheading of this New York Times article, “When it comes to warnings about limiting kids’ screen time, grandparents are, well, grandfathered in.” Video chatting with real people, the article says, “can enhance bonding and recognition.”
4) Model healthy media consumption
Your own screen time habits can also have detrimental effects on your child: if you’re constantly looking at your phone, you’re missing opportunities to connect. If you’re always plugged into some kind of device, you’re sending the message to your child that screen time is actually OK. Try leaving your phone in a different part of the house. Or turning it off during meals, bedtime, and other special time dedicated to your children.
5) Create a balance of quality activities for your child
When your children are not absorbed in a screen, read to them. Allow them to be bored and find their own fun. Send your kids out into the back yard. Sing, engage, interact. It’s not enough just to limit screen time. We need to make sure we’re balancing it with quality imaginary play, interaction, and physical activity.
Online Classes from Mi Casa Es Tu Casa®
We are proud of our research-based online music classes in Spanish for babies, toddlers, and kiddos. Hours and hours of thought and care have gone into the production of each class video. We get families singing in Spanish, moving, and connecting.
If you have an account with Mi Casa Es Tu Casa® already, you can try a demo class by logging into the Family Portal and clicking on the "At-home Program Demo" Tile.
If you don't have an account yet, but you want to try out the demo class, create an account!
Our online program membership comes with materials, a bilingual songbook, and access to our music in the Mi Casa Es Tu Casa® app.
Got questions? Send us an email (email@example.com) or schedule a call.
Alice Gray is a writer and editor living in Austin, Texas. She has attended classes at Mi Casa es Tu Casa® since her daughter was 2 years old, and is a big believer in the benefits of early childhood movement, music, language, play, and connection.