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To Screen or Not to Screen With Kids Under 2

Today's question is a much bigger one when it comes to screen time: How much is too much, especially with our kids under the age of 2? There's also the added question of which screen we are talking about -- is it the TV, the computer, the iPad, the smartphone?
08/26/2015 11:08am ET | Updated August 26, 2016
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Barney was the best babysitter for many, many parents (especially me when I was trying to take a quick shower!), and even then, we were guilt-ridden putting our kids in front of a screen. But, looking back, why? Barney sang, entertained, and taught kids about sharing, friendship, and tolerance.

Today's question is a much bigger one when it comes to screen time: How much is too much, especially with our kids under the age of 2? There's also the added question of which screen we are talking about -- is it the TV, the computer, the iPad, the smartphone?

We live in a world that offers incredible solutions for keeping even our youngest kids entertained. The experts are having a field day with this, but as a mother of three, I know that whatever is decided as "best" now will change soon. I had one child sleep on her belly, one on her back, and one on her side -- that's how quickly sleeping recommendations changed. Screen time will be similar.

Screen time for little ones is a personal parenting decision, but at this age, we spend most of our time holding and playing with our children. Not only is the screen something that will capture and hold their attention (especially if you want to grab a few bites of dinner at a restaurant), but if the proper content is use, it's also a time to begin learning. Apps created for our littlest kids are often intros to music, shapes, numbers, and colors.

However, at any age, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing -- and screen time is no exception. As kids get older, we need to limit their time in front of a screen, since most times there's no place else they'd rather be. I'm always a big advocate of what we at the Toy Insider call a well-balanced toy box, meaning your kids get their fill of tech, but it's balanced out by classic play patterns that also help their development of large and small motor skills and social interaction. Tactile play is just as important.

Most parents worry about what is too much and where to set the limit. We live in a generation where kids are swiping before they are speaking and using a computer is intuitive for them. There's a lot of good that comes from this, but too much of it can be detrimental. It's just like candy: You wouldn't let your kids sit and eat candy for hours straight. The devices in their lives are no different (just less damaging to their teeth!). Screens are part of our everyday life, so there is no escaping them -- it's just important to remember to keep it balanced!