I don’t think it is appropriate for a child younger than 6 to have much screen time. Some would respond to this that we are doing our children a disservice not exposing them to all of the computer gadgets that are now central to adult daily life. I agree that children should start using these to assimilate into our culture but not until they are in elementary school.
First, young children’s brains aren’t wired biologically for this technology. Second, they need to experience a 3D object directly before they can form an abstract concept about it. Finally, I think too much screen time can hurt them cognitively and emotionally.
The movement towards screen activities has been enormous in the last 20 years. But our brains have been wired for a 3D world since humans have been around.
Even if a child’s brain could adapt to screens at a very young age, I don’t think a child should start experiencing the world through a 2D lens. A young brain has to start with a 3D world. There is a reason that children go around touching everything. A child can’t abstract the concept of a chair without crawling under it, around it and over it. Before he can understand the concept of the word twisting read on his lap top, he needs to twist jar lids, screwdrivers, etc.
Why do I think screen time for young children can even be harmful? Because for every hour a day a child younger than two years of age watches TV, there is a 10% increased chance of that child being diagnosed with an attention deficit disorder by 7 years of age (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2004). Because I have talked to lots of Kindergarten and Pre-K teachers who have taught between 20 and 40 years and they all say children are different now than they were 20, 30, 40 years ago- that they can’t sit still for a lesson like they used to, that it is harder to capture their interest in subject matter, and that they are harder to teach. Because the time spent in front of a screen is time not spent staring at clouds, learning to play with friends, or creating something.
Even though the whole teenage and adult world is texting, facebooking, gaming, etc., young children should be given a chance to experience the world the way they were born to, in a way that gives them a better chance at understanding the real world and in a way that doesn’t cause adjustment problems.
Christakis, D.A., Zimmerman, F., DiGiuseppe, D.L., & McCarty, C.A. (2004). Early television exposure and subsequent attentional problems in children. Pediatrics, 113 (4).