Thursday, July 24, 2014

Screentime in the 0-3 population: One OT's perspective

I have been working with children between birth and three years old for four years, and have used screentime to varying degrees over that time. At first I thought it was fantastic... I can bring out my old iPhone and entertain my clients for quite a bit of time. I was working on cause and effect tasks, learning animal names and sounds, finger isolation and tolerance of transitions away from preferred tasks (I used Peek-A-Boo Barn most of the time). All great skills to learn while in OT, but what really were the kids getting when interacting with an electronic device?

I started changing my idea of using screentime in therapy when I moved to a new city, and started hearing more and more about the lack of movement and play skills in young children due to use of electronics to occupy their time. I went to school to learn all these great skills, and I was excited when kids were showing finger isolation from touching a screen providing no tactile feedback. Shame on me.

Then started the ridiculous inclusion of iPad holders on common baby items, such as the bouncer seat and the potty chair. Many negative comments about these items came from therapists. A baby, young enough to be in a bouncer seat, should not have access to an iPad! Parents should talk and interact with their kids, not just plan on having an electronic occupy their time. Of course, there are certainly exceptions where these devices would be very useful, but overall it made me take a step back from any electronic device use at this age.

 There are still times when I use my old iPhone or an iPad for treatment with these young children. And it's mostly to distract from the dreaded tummy time! So much motor development is happening during tummy time, and many kids are getting to the older months of life with no ability to tolerate being on their tummy without a distraction. I use an iPad or iPhone for motivation until tummy time can be tolerated, and then I welcome the kids into the world that is exploring on their tummy (and eventually crawling and walking).

What are your thoughts on screentime for the 0-3 population? If it's beneficial for your situation, do you put limits on the time? We have some suggestions for how to limit time in this thread.


Shelly realizes she fills most of her free time with screentime...

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