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The Benefits of Watching TV with Young Children

As parents, we have come to think that screen time is bad for young children - or maybe that it's an inescapable evil. We feel guilty about letting them watch what we fear is too much or the wrong kind of TV and other electronic media. But there's a mounting body of evidence that if you are actually watching along with your preschool or elementary school-aged child, screen time might not be that bad. On the contrary, as long as you are an active participant, it can have multiple beneficial effects.

Enhancing learning from screen time

Learning for young children is driven by human interactions, explains Shelley Pasnik, director of the Center for Children & Technology. She leads a team that studies how the thoughtful use of technology can enhance learning. “What young kids need are a lot of experiences that are built on contingency, so a child does something and an adult says something in response. It’s a back-and-forth,” she says. It’s important that kids know what they do has an effect. “And they’re going to get a response.”

This kid of back-and-forth is called contingent engagement, and it's something that can happen with a screen if a parent is participating. As a result, The American Academy of Pediatrics has dialed back its "no screens" policy for very young kids. "But," says Pasnik, "it's not just, okay, now everyone let your kids watch TV, you know, without the social component. It's that social relationship that is so, so crucial. It's less the relationship between the kid and the screen and instead it's the child and the parent."

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To finish reading the full story, visit the Child Mind Institute website:

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