Toddlers and Tech: A New Way to Look at Screen Time
For the last decade, screen time has been a topic for teenagers, but parents are now raising digital natives—infants are meeting family over FaceTime and the average toddler is on tech over 2 hours a day. In this talk, Jennifer explains why it’s never too early (or too late) to create a healthy relationship with tech. Through the use of simple screen swaps and intentional choices, it’s possible to boost your child’s development and connect more closely, both on and off tech. Not all screens are created equal, and she’s here to explain why.
During the conversation, Jennifer mentioned 4 ‘tech swaps’, actions parents can take to mitigate the impact of screens. So what do some of those choices or tech swaps look like?
- Stop counting screen time minutes and swap what our focus is… focus instead on what children are doing when they are NOT on screens. Are they getting in ample time in nature? Ample unstructured free play? Ample time to be bored—which is the seed of all innovation and creativity? Get intentional about their time not on tech, making sure their childhoods are filled with real-world activities and adventures. This is a super fire way to protect their early brain development.
- Get intentional about the nuances of screens when you do use them. The point of this talk is not to be screen-free, but to use tech intentionally so get informed as not all screens are created equal—so if you child is going to have screens, there are ways to make that experience better, thinking about where they watch screens, when, what device they use, or why. For example, can you swap tv right before bed for earlier in the day, so it won’t disrupt their sleep? Can you swap that fast-paced show for s slightly slower one? There are lots of intentional swaps you can make to improve the quality of their screen time use.
- Practice the intentional 15. I get parents are busy, I’m a mom of 2 under the age of 4, but can you take 15 minutes each day, turn off your phone, put it in the other room, and be with your child for 15 minutes- talk with them, read with them, follow their lead. This works magic. It’s meditative. It unplugs you and your children and brings you together.
- Finally, this is the most important one--Swap solo tech time for together time. Under the age of three, in that time of gigantic neurological growth, children need the presence of an adult to translate the digital world. One of the riskiest screentime patterns of littles, beyond too much screen time, is solo tech time… Here’s why. Tech evokes emotions and children need adults to process emotions. Tech does not have real-time back and forth talking with your kids, but you do. When you watch media with your child, your presence acts as a protection against the negative effects of screens.
Jennifer Strube Bochsler
Jennifer Strube Bochsler, LMFT, is co-founder of TechWiseLittles, an online resource for parents of digital natives, which she began in 2021 while pandemic parenting. As an educator and licensed family therapist, she’s worked for 20 years in public and private education consulting with families on healthy tech boundaries, brain development, and developing kids’ attention and focus skills. She holds three Masters' degrees, has authored four books, and is a wife and mom of two. Passionate about the outdoors, Jennifer believes most things work better once unplugged…especially us.
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