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Baby, Toddler Screen Time May Be OK After All

Study offers parents new advice on the screen time debate
Photograph by Getty Images/iStockphoto

Feeling terrible about sticking your tot with the iPad for a few minutes just so you can brush your teeth? Fear not, Mom—new research is here to wash at least some of that guilt away. In a new guide released by Zero to Three, a nonprofit organization that conducts infant and toddler research, experts get to the bottom of the screen time debate more than ever before. Their goal? To find out just how "detrimental" screen time really is for kids, anyway.

And it turns out, it's not all that bad.

The guide, called "Screen Sense: Setting the Record Straight," is the result of basically tells parents in a nutshell that screen time is A-OK—so long as your kid also gets plenty of interactive playtime in the real world, too. It also reiterates the fact that screen time should be a "shared experience" so kids don't just zone out to a TV screen or iPad game all on their own.

Seem like no-brainer advice? Maybe so, but it actually differs a bit from what the American Academy of Pediatrics has been telling parents for years. So far, the AAP has made strong recommendations against screen time for kids under the age of two.

The fear, of course, has to do with the belief that getting glued to an iPad for hours will deter kids from engaging properly, getting the right kind of one-on-one time with Mom and Dad that they need, and learning basic concepts through methods other than a screen. But should the answer really be a hard no when it comes to games, videos and other forms of media that may actually be beneficial? As "Screen Sense" advises, parents need only keep three tips in mind when trying to strike the right balance between their kid's use of media and real-life engagement: 1) watch shows together as much as possible; 2) play screen-based games together; and 3) help your child make connections between what they're seeing on the screen and how it relates to the real world. For more advice from the researchers behind "Screen Sense," read their tips for parents.

Much has been made about screen time limits over the years. Aside from the AAP's recommendations, studies have also claimed less screen time means happier, healthier kids, and that it will even cut down on some of their crankiness. But this latest research will surely cause many parents to finally breathe a sigh of relief.

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