Ask HN: How do you manage screen time for your toddler?

15 points by alanthonyc 3 months ago

The past few years have been a blur of falling in love, marriage, pregnancies, and births.

Now, I find myself the father of an infant baby and a two-year old.

I’m trying to do my best by them and limiting screen time to facetime with out of town relatives.

My wife uses her phone to share pictures.

At barely two, our toddler is starting to ask to “see see” the phone more and more.

Any tips?

ian0 3 months ago

When my son was around 2 he became addicted to youtube. We like other parents fell into the pitfall of allowing him to look at videos when we went out for meals to keep him occupied. We strictly limited usage but it got to the point where if he didn't get the phone he threw a tantrum.

One day we decided just to ban the phone outright, cold turkey. The tantrums lasted for a day or two then he forgot about it completely. I cant proove it was related, but we noticed an immediate increase in his level of vocabulary. Fast forward 4 years and we now use the phone only for calling granny and using the stargazing app at night.

PS We took this lesson and hit upon a great related strategy. We started to artificially "limit" book time with the young kids. And of course this just improves their excitement around reading! Scarcity in action :P

enonevets 3 months ago

My kids are a bit older now but at the age, I find it was relatively easy to redirect their attention away from screens. At that age they're quite curious and will generally jump to the next interesting thing and quickly move on for a bit. I recommend engaging and offering productive playtime to help them move onto other activities.

As they got older we implemented a one hour screen time limit per day for all screen types (including TV) but that they could earn more screen time if they read, did chores, finished their homework early, help each other in some way, etc with a hard limit of 2 hours max screen time per day with rare exceptions to exceed that.

So far we're happy with the results and the amount of time they spend doing other activities.

auslegung 3 months ago

Our story sounds very similar to yours. We allow them to use the computer but only while we’re holding them, and they’re so young they just bang on the keyboard imitating us. So I open a text editor and let them go nuts. Similar deal with the phone. As for TV we show them animal documentaries, or train documentaries, etc, and an hour a week probably. Our goal is to teach our children to use “screens” correctly, rather than severely limiting them. But these things are inherently addictive, far more stimulating than real life, and warrant real concern and intentionality. If we are on them 5 hours a week in their view, they will want them 15 hours a week, so we must limit ourselves, too.

DoreenMichele 3 months ago

At barely two, our toddler is starting to ask to “see see” the phone more and more.

Any tips?

You and your wife are probably chronically sleep deprived and not being engaging enough for the child. The phone is an easy answer for entertainment. The child's vocabulary isn't sufficient to express "Damn, y'all are boring me to death here! I need my mind fed, people!" any way other than asking to "see" the phone.

Solution: Find other ways to be adequately interesting to your toddler. A two year old has substantial need for intellectual inputs. Make sure the phone is not the only non-boring option available to them.

jlengrand 3 months ago

For us, it's a few simple rules.

* Some TV only in the weekend (Tintin, Smurfs) and with daddy or mummy. It's a bit like Sunday cuddle time. One episode max. (about 30 minutes). * She is not allowed to grab the phone and 'scroll' herself. She can see photos about her that we send or receive. That's maybe 5 times a day. * She is allowed to grab the phone to use it as a phone (speak to family members).

The hardest, and what I am bad at, is to grab the phone myself when with her. For example scrolling Twitter while I feed her. I have to get better at that.

Occasionally, she might get a few hours of Tintin where we travel by car to France. The following days, seeing her constantly nagging for more TV reminds us how addictive that is, and how careful we have to be.

croo 3 months ago

IMO a two year old needs exactly zero screen time. For them the world is never a boring place.

  • mrfusion 3 months ago

    I’d do a half hour maybe three times a month just so they can learn the mechanics and get some experience thinking a bit more abstractly. A few hours couldn’t hurt unless it turns into a gateway drug ...

mrfusion 3 months ago

I limit mindless screentime and games to one day a week.

A daily limit just led to daily battles.

But as they get older I allow anything productive almost unlimited. Eg playing around on sketchup, writing stories in a word processor, making “reports” in PowerPoint.

Oh and ted talks are also unlimited.

amerkhalid 3 months ago

I got 15 months old, he loves music videos (Baby Shark is theme music of my life right now). Right now, he is easy to distract, so if he get on phone or TV, we will redirect him to play. We also try never to be on phone in front of him. I read on Kindle but he gets bored with Kindle quickly.

I am not sure what will happen when his attention span increases and start demanding for us to turn on TV.

uptownfunk 3 months ago

This became a bit of a long spiel and is quite anecdotal, ymmv, but in the spirit of trying to help a fellow parent I thought I’d share my thoughts and experiences.

Our son is right around the same age. I was super addicted to tv as a kid and I really don’t want our kids anywhere near one. My wife specializes in early childhood education so I usually (have to) run my crazy child rearing ideas before her before it gets ratified.

In any case we don’t have a cable subscription. We have Netflix/amzn prime but we make it a point not to turn the tv on around the kids. We only really watch it once the kids are down. I personally feel that when you’re watching tv your brain is shut off, you’re getting the dopamine hit (which I think is similar to the Facebook/insta likes etc). And I have some intuitive feeling that this probably isn’t the best for childhood development.

We have a small place, so our living room is full of kid stuff. Educational toys, books and all that. We got our 2 yo into reading and he has his kiddo sized bookshelf so when he wants to read he chooses his books and brings them to us and we read.

When we read we don’t just read the text, but we really try to examine the pictures as much as we can, I try to make it as interactive for him as possible, I learned that one from the wife.

He has a ton of toys my wife has chosen based on her experience, we tend to avoid too many electronic toys with lots of overstimulating lights and sounds (besides those get annoying really quick).

One thing that has really helped is music. We have tons of kid sized indian and western musical instruments as well, part of it is because music wasn’t emphasized at home (only math and science, that is a whole other discussion, but a very damaging attitude to have in the home i think as well). We also play music, but shut off the screens. So we will cast YouTube or Spotify to our tv but shut off the screen. It’s a little scary to see how quickly their eyes glaze over once the visuals come on.

I really think songs and singing along is such a great way to build up vocabulary skills in kids, as well as helping them develop their musical sensibilities.

We also live in Southern California, the favorable weather makes it very easy to go to the beach any chance we get, or I’ll just take him outdoors and let him explore and play.

This is all probably a long way of saying what another commenter was getting at. Have a lot of other entertaining activities at home so that the tv becomes insignificant or ideally just a worse option from the kiddos POV than more wholesome activities.

Also I always love recommending The Beginning of Life on Netflix, it emphasizes Reggio Emilia, and has an eye opening take on child development that engineers or technically oriented people may not have at first grasp.