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Ask HN: How much screen time do you let your kids have?
60 points by japhyr on Dec 13, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 90 comments
I'm asking this question on HN because I feel like many people here probably supervise their kids' screen time a little differently than the average parent. So I've read the general recommendations about screen time, but I'd like a little perspective from HNers with young children.

My son will be 4 in March. We don't have a tv, so the only screen time he's had is about an hour a day of watching a few children's shows through Amazon or Hulu. It's been mostly good, because the shows are educational and we talk to him daily about what he's seeing. It's really interesting to here what conclusions he draws from some of these shows, and it's amazing what he picks up from shows like Wild Kratts.

We recently got an ipad mini for travel. It was great while traveling; he starting using some apps about the human body, one that let him build robots and guide them through a maze, etc. But now that we're done traveling for a bit, he keeps wanting to use the ipad. I want him to continue gaining exposure to devices like an ipad, but I also don't want him to have excessive screen time. He complains loudly for about a minute when we tell him we're finished with the ipad, but then quickly finds something interesting to do in the house.

What do HN parents of kids around this age do? At what age did you start setting specific time limits for screen time? At what age did you start your kids on projects specifically related to programming? (I have no need to push programming, but I certainly want to expose him to the concepts. He's already pretending to program the computer he watches videos on, and physical objects that he pretends are robots.)

My daughter is 5. We've done several things:

1. Blocked youtube on all iOS devices. This has been the most significant, positive action. She was rabid and unhappy whenever she used youtube, even for 20 minutes. The mental unbalance would sometimes last for hours.

2. NO live TV (no ads), unless we're watching a special event, e.g. a tennis tournament or other major cultural happenings (usually via BBC/VPN). The TV screen is hooked to a Mac mini, with XBMC and an account for the parents and another one for our daughter.

3. Weekly budget. She has a few cards which she can use in a given week (refill each Monday morning): 3 for documentaries (mostly nature, 45-60' each), and 1 for a weekend movie (animated or musical). Initially she had 2 documentary-cards, which we increased when she turned 4, and we added the movie card when she turned 5. She's much happier and specific about what she wants to watch with her own budget control. She has made a fake mickey mouse club card (she had discovered it through youtube), but we've never honored it. She also made a joker card to enable herself to watch anything she wants as many times as she wants; never accepted that one either... I highly recommend all the BBC Natural World shows.

4. Purchased a few iOS apps for her enjoyment: first animal pictures and sounds; next Doodle; and in the last couple of years several Montessori apps. She loves them all, and usually after an initial obsessive [edit: 1 hour over a] day or two with a new app she'll only return to the iPad for much shorter, infrequent sessions (maybe twice a week). I buy a new app maybe once every 2-3 months. I've turned on restrictions in all devices, to prevent in-app purchases and installing+deleting apps; if a (rare) free app keeps popping up advertisement when she's using it we delete it and explain to her it was broken.

Last year she inherited my old, sim-less iPhone 4 which she can use as an iPod to listen to audiobooks and her favorite music. She loves that, especially Roald Dahl stories. I've only recently installed on it one of the apps I had purchased (via the iOS/iCloud family feature). And this week she discovered Siri ("the computer speaks to me!") by accident.


We had a very different experience with YouTube. Our daughter would seek out phonics videos and at 5 can write sentences and read words like "maltodextrin" (school has deemed her a "word caller" - intuitive understanding of word/sentence construction). We were kicking ourselves in the ass for not reading enough to her and suddenly she reads an entire book in front of us without any warning that she was picking up words.

A couple of other things I've done with her: when she was 2 I'd sometimes ask her what pictures she wanted to look at (usually an animal) then I'd show her the results of Google Image search on a tablet or laptop. The color filter was fun, especially for starfish.

Now she also knows about Wikipedia and will ask every other week whether we can look something up on the iPad, e.g. why do camels have humps; we end up learning a lot of other things. She's not yet able to comfortably read at the level of Wikipedia, maybe next year.

I can see in her eyes she doesn't quite grok it when I say this access to images and explanations did not exist when I was a child. I loved the depictions of The Diamond Age. Wish we were closer to it by now.

> She's not yet able to comfortably read at the level of Wikipedia

May I recommend http://simple.wikipedia.org? It's obviously not nearly as expansive as the standard English version, but it's a great option for EFL adults or younger kids.

Re: reading level: do give the Simple English Wikipedia a try!

Your daughter made fake cards to let her watch anything she wants whenever she wants??? Congratulations on raising a very cool little person!!! :)

I really like your idea to give her cards. I think practicing budgeting and spending is probably really good for kids, and your solution feeds into that. Great job! I will probably steal this idea when my son is older . . . and perhaps I should also use it on myself.

I know what you mean about the Youtube access. Just a few days ago I blocked it on my four-year-old's PC. Anytime she watched Youtube, she would throw a fit when her time's up. So it's best to just avoid it all together. All she would watch on there anyway were videos of kids playing with toys and Minecraft commentary. I would rather she just played Minecraft or with her toys.

I am sorry but I don't agree with your excessive controls. You may end up raising very mean and materialistic kid. I have 5 year old daughter too, but strongly disagree with your methods.

How did you block youtube?

To block websites on ALL your devices you need to block them on the router level.

If you have a linksys router you can visit and the default username and password are both "admin". From there you can visit the website restrictions area and add YouTube to be 1 of 4 restricted domains.

Under iOS, if you want to control access by URLs, see Settings > General > Restrictions > Websites

We disabled the Youtube app in Restrictions when Apple included it in the default setup (up to iOS 5).

Something about this topic disturbs me. I would always have loved computers no matter what, but if my parents had restricted my screen time during my obsessive periods I don't think I would be half the programmer I am today.

It depends on what your goals for your kids are. It also depends on the quality of screen time. Youtube != Programming != Video gaming != Documentaries != Movies != TV.

Personally, my primary goal for my son is not to make him the best programmer out there. I want him to be a good, happy person first and foremost. If there are things I can do to make him a better programmer that would hurt the chances of him being happy and good, then I will probably prefer instead to hurt his chances of being a good programmer.

Screen time is one of those things that I'm somewhat concerned about. Some kids get a lot of it these days. I'm not normally one for fearmongering, but the studies I've seen coming out don't necessarily take a very positive view of its effects.

This. My mother was worried with all the time I spent in front of the computer. I wasn't always doing educational stuff, but I wouldn't have become the programmer I am today without that (three quarters wasted) screen time. When our household got dial-up, I remember taking some beating (literally) from my father because the programs I was using, Borland C++ and IDA Disassembler, had the interface layout similar to mIRC.

I feel you. But it is a double edged sword, I think. My parents didn't try very hard to understand computers in the early 1990s and soon I, while barely a teenager, became the expert in the house regarding this wonderful device. If they hadn't let me, as you, I wouldn't have been the programmer I am today, nor would I have the career I have today. At the same time, however, I'd have liked to explore the computer together with my parents and siblings. I would have liked a mentor of sorts to guide my learning trajectory regarding computers. In the end, however much I enjoyed it, I think my "screen time experience" could have been so much more.

Should my parents have restricted my screen time? Sometimes, yes. But more importantly, they should have tried to make my screen time more meaningful to me instead of leaving me to my own devices.

I understand the unease. Most parents asking this question are just seeking reassurance about what their child does.

We know there are some problems with excess screen tine (mostly sleep hygiene, but can combine with speech problems in extreme cases) so it's a good thing that parents ask.

Parents normally know if they have a neuro-atypical child and would tailor the questions appropriately.

My parents were like this. They hated video games, and to them the only thing a computer was capable of was video games. They would heavily limit "screen time" or ban it outright, regardless of what I was doing. I would need to spend time doing activities they approved of to earn more "screen time."

Writing code?

"Stop playing video games and go outside."

Toying with Linux?

"Stop playing video games and go outside."

Playing World of Warcraft?

"Stop playing video games and go outside."

When I was able to get "screen time" I usually spent more of it playing video games instead of being productive, because that time was so limited.

I would regularly "hang out" on a forum dedicated to amateur story-writers sharing and critiquing each other. I wrote my stories in a notebook, with a few drafts and rewrites, then when I sat down at our computer and the "computer timer" began, I would race to type it up and submit the story, then print out a few other members stories to read during the week, and race to type out reviews for the stories I had printed last time. Then hopefully I had enough time to run a dungeon with friends, or play some Counter Strike.

So I was able to work on my writing offline, but I don't believe that did me any favors. Having access to a spellchecker and Wikipedia while I wrote would have been amazing, instead of a dictionary and no reference materials.

I could be programming, and have to stop and spend a certain amount of time outside. Some days I would spend the time outside just sitting and thinking about my program, working out solutions, I quickly learned that typing is the least essential part of programming. But without Google or documentation, it was hard. I only had one "Teach yourself C++" book, which was not a reference book.

It just wasn't fun, programming at home. Having to stop after two hours, the looks of disapproval as my parents walked by (as if I were doing drugs right in front of them), and being interrupted frequently while working. When I was on the computer, my parents were more likely to assign me pointless chores ("The dog's water bowl is half-empty, fill it up, please") while the "computer timer" was still ticking.

I started a programming club at my high school, and would stay late most days just teaching myself to code, because I didn't want to go home. I remember I would download the source to games I enjoyed, print out about a hundred pages of code and study it. If I was reading code on a screen, I was ruining my life. But if I was reading it on paper, everything was okay.

Of course, I was no saint. I was sucked into World of Warcraft, as were all my friends. I know I have an addictive personality, but it doesn't just apply to negative things. I'm just as "addicted" to programming. I was just as "addicted" to reading and writing science fiction. I don't write anymore, and music took its place. It always finds an outlet anyways, I spent all of my money on comic books and trading card games because those somehow made my parents happier than when I was programming. I wish I had learned better self-control when I was younger instead of learning how to grind through hours of other activities, just to get back to grinding in the game.

The restrictions also made me seem much worse. When a dungeon takes two hours to run, and you only have two hours to use the computer, you get frantic. You call your friends and let them know "I can be on from 3 to 5 Saturday. Be on then, and please don't be late." You're be anxious while the computer starts, while the game loaded. The whole time, this egg-timer above the desk was ticking down. I would be furious when I was kicked off minutes before reaching the final boss. My parents thought video games just made people behave like that. It was even worse when we wiped (when everyone dies), because then I knew it was impossible to complete in time. Thankfully my friends were nice people, and put up with it. Many other people would have just found a new healer.

Sorry, this thread made me want to rant. Please don't restrict mediums. Restrict activities.

This sounds... horrible. My parents frequently threatened that they will restrict my time on computer, but happily they didn't.

OP: I don't quite understand. What your child should be doing? Read paper book, because it's better than reading something on screen?

Have your parents come around at all on this, or do they think you're getting paid to do things they don't approve of now?

Please don't restrict mediums. Restrict activities.

That's a great way of putting it.

They are still pretty disappointed with my current job, but I'm doing very well and they're happy that I'm successful, even if they don't understand how or why. I left college to work, so there's always that spiel of "You really should quit your job and go back to college" at family gatherings. But recently they've been saying that less and less.

What other tools for creativity and learning do you arbitrarily limit? Do you have a hard rule on “paper time”?”¹


Edit: Related blog posts:



The problem is that TV and computers can be used for far more than 'creativity and learning' and, in my experience with kids, the majority of use is mindless. Kids get hooked on games.

And they also tend to read shitty fiction, if they read at all. So again, do you also limit 'paper time'?

Difference is, reading of all kinds has positive effects on outcomes, whereas screen time has the opposite.

Do you have evidence of that? That is pretty much exactly what is in question.

This article contains a variety of citations about screen time[1]. And here's some stuff about the benefits of reading[2], from the reading-to angle. There's tons of stuff like this if you care to look in to it in more detail.

Nothing in here is definitive. I am not saying that negative effects of screen time are proven beyond the shadow of a doubt. Personally, what I care about is what's most likely to be true, so I can act on that for the sake of my son. I think it is more likely than not that >2 hours of screen time per day is a negative factor. I think it is more likely than not that reading is a positive factor. I'm not going to wait for something to be 99.99% proven before I act on the information.



"the majority of use is mindless. Kids get hooked on games."

At least based on my kids (4 and 7) I concur. We give them an hour a day of screen time.

I just happened to have read this & it kinda unequivocally says "Cut out the TV". It interferes with your infant's brain's learning. (early ages) http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8445273-brain-rules-for-b...

I'm a mom to an 8 yr old and a 4 yr old. My initial challenge was similar - managing screen time, but I was also concerned about the content of some of the videos. Enabling safe search was not adequate.

To solve this problem for myself, I built an HTML5 Youtube player app which allows parents to set daily time quotas and flag inappropriate videos. I've replaced YouTube with this app on our iPad. The kids don't exceed the quotas that I've set often, but its useful to have a history of how much they've been watching and what they've been watching. I did flag some music videos that were inappropriate. The kids seem to like the fact that they have their own profiles.

The app is still work in progress, but if you are interested , take a look at http://www.olipie.com/. Any feedback or suggestions are most welcome.

You might also consider submitting it to "Show HN": https://news.ycombinator.com/show

Welcome aboard!

Mz, first lady of hn (or at least it appears that way to me -- someone feel free to prove me wrong)

Thank you!! Will do that...

Make sure you read the guidelines and all that.

Best of luck.

So the generation that grew up with free love and drugs did everything to prevent their children from experiencing the same, and the generation that grew up with free tech does the same with tech. The cycle continues.

My parents and most of my friends' parents limited our screen time when we were kids in the 90s. I wouldn't say we grew up with "free tech" in the sense that you seem to believe we did.

It might just be that as they get older and wiser and look around at their friends, that they start seeing negative consequences of activities done earlier in life and want to protect those they love. Definitely the case with me.

.. because they've experienced the downsides to themselves in retrospect, and can see the downsides from the outside?

(The zeroth phase in the cycle is prudish uninformed opposition that is comically wrong about what the downsides are and why)

No limits so far; my eldest is 5. My parents didn't limit my TV watching or computer use as a kid. It never did me any harm, although my kids, like me, seem not to get addicted to things and naturally shift between different activity types often (indeed, to my wife's annoyance, it is more difficult to get them - or me! - to pay attention to an entire movie without opportunities to multitask ;-))

But would I get strict if my kids did want to watch TV or an iPad for hours to the detriment of their health or wanting to do other stuff? Yes.

I never limited "screen time." I only took their stuff away or denied them things for very specific problems. So, they learned to stop behaving in a problematic way.

Example: Their dad would take their video games as punishment for something totally unrelated and it bred resentment. I took their video games only if they were fighting about a specific video game and I only took that specific video game and lectured them that they were doing it wrong, games were for having fun and if they were fighting with a loved one over a stupid game, they were totally missing the point. They learned to negotiate and cooperate and not fight.

I also sometimes took their controllers during the day because we homeschooled and "10 minute" breaks would turn into hours of video games and they got nothing done. So, for a time, I locked up the controllers during the day. They were given them back not at any specific time (like 3pm) but once they were done with their school work for the day. So working harder got rewarded.

If there was a problem in specific, I addressed that specific problem. But I never arbitrarily limited anything like "screen time." I have zero understanding of what the point of that is. To my mind, unless you specifically think it harms them developmentally (for example, creating eyesight issues), I just cannot fathom why parents feel some need to be so controlling about this stuff. It just does not compute for me.

They are now 25 and 27 and they are wonderful human beings, imo. I am perfectly happy with the results of my parenting efforts.

"I just cannot fathom why parents feel some need to be so controlling about this stuff. It just does not compute for me."

Especially on hackernews. We're (mostly?) programmers, right?

Personally, it's about teaching a child to actively seek out information vs passively consuming it. I love programming because it is interactive and I learn continuously. I want to teach my kids the joy of learning by doing. Hence the limitation on passive forms or consumption, like the television and the emphasis on activities like story telling, Lego and drawing.

FWIW, I found the very best method to help kids learn to actively do things was letting them do the things they chose to do instead of mom imposing on them her will and deciding for them. But that seems to be an enormously difficult concept to convey to other adults who seem to have no real understanding that the most important ingredient here is personal agency, even if they are only 2 years old and just want to do things that seem rather silly to adults.

Two children, 5 and 3. No limits on screen time whatsoever, they watch TV, or Netflix on PS4, or play mario on the Wii U, or play snakes and ladders, etc.

If I ever see them go 'full retard' with the screen usage I would step in, but they have never really gotten that far. They always find time to play between them: play fights, bowling with their toy pins, playing with the dog, etc.

I don't really believe in that type of parenting where you control each and every second of the day for your kid. I wasn't raised that way. Let kids be kids.

My daughter is 5. She had zero screen time till she was 2. After that, it was a case by case basis. 5 minutes a day when she was 3 - which is one peppa pig episode. The only computer time she was allowed were for drawing using paint or Photoshop. At 4, on special occasions, she got to ask for a few YouTube videos - usually Dora, peppa pig, or something educational. She was also allowed to ask to watch the news, which she did sometimes. Her allowed TV time went up to 20 minutes a day, but she didn't know that- for her, it was either 2 peppa pig episodes or one yo gabba gabba. However, we did not make a big deal of increasing her screen time. We made a big deal about the fact that because she is 4, she now gets two bedtime stories. At 5, her screen time has not increased. But, if she is a really good girl, she can ask for 3 bedtime b stories. How's it working? Well, she isn't bothered about TV that much, she loves books and she knows ads are really about getting you to spend money. So I think she's on the right track.

I try my best to answer all her questions and encourage her to ask more. When I don't know the answer, she and I do the research together.

I think the approach is working really well and we're going to do the same with our one year old too.

Peppa Pig is awesome (check out Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom, by the same team).

Whatever you do, don't ever permit Caillou. A couple episodes of it and our kids were mimicking bad behaviours - "hrmph" to any requests, whining constantly, etc. We banned it and everything went back to normal. http://www.sbnation.com/2014/3/26/5549908/arian-foster-caill...

Thanks. Will check out Little kingdom. Whatever she watches, I make sure I watch first.

Our kid is two, so not really relevant. He watches peppa pig / masha / noddy for about 30 mins a day when we're feeding him.

As an adult who started on computers at 6, I think we're overstating the problem. He's more interested in mud / trains / walking in the park than the iPad. It's not novel to them, not as it was to use in the 70s/80s.

There's no such thing as educational tv, although you're right to limit your child to yhe better tv.

An hour a day for a four year old is far too much. {EDIT: in my opinon, with no supporting research} You should be limiting it to a couple of hours per week.

Someone needs to set up a website that curates lists of good (or at least not awful) apps for children -- a good list is needed because no parent has the time to wade through the awful awful app stores.

Children do pick stuff up really easily, so you're probably going around introducing programming concepts the right way. Getting yourself up to speed on the introductory programming languages might be useful so you can answer the "hey dad, what do I do now?"

We do things too early in England - a child born on 31st August would be at school full time now, doing synthetic phonics ("first, fast, only" is the buzzphrase for synthetic phonics here) and learning to write. (It's the full days at school I'm objecting to, not learning to read and write).

"There's no such thing as educational tv..."

I don't see how it's possible to claim this.

Its possible to claim anything.

Sometimes harder to justify the claim, though.

Actually I honestly can't imagine what sort of level of ignorance or intellectual dishonesty could result in that statement.

My kids are older: 11 and 9. Here are the rules:

- Tablets can be used for reading at any time

- Schoolwork is a valid reason to use devices

- Music without videos is not "screen time".

- anything else is "screen time".

- Screen time does not exist on Monday through Thursday. (This was originally "from school end until all homework is done", but it turns out that their behavior is significantly worse when we allow that.)

- Screen time is never available after dinner, unless a parent is actively involved. (Drastically improves their ability to go to bed on time.)

- On weekends, one day is as much screen time as you want until dinner time. The other day may or may not have some screen time depending on behavior. If you find something better to do, you can't claim a refund.

There hasn't been a live TV feed in our house since before they were born; commercials are fascinating to them. I frequently have to tell them to put down a book while they do something else, because otherwise they will try to perform the task one-handed while reading.

So, they could use computer only on weekends. How your kid could become, for example, programmer?

Where would you be if you would be treated as that?

According to their rules, "screen time" is not equivalent to "using computer".

It seems like a reasonable way to limit unproductive, pure-entertainment computer use. A parent with some common sense should be able to identify what is productive.

Yup. If they want to program, that's different from watching other people play Minecraft on Youtube.

I also expect these rules to change along with the kids, not remain static. If we're successful, then by 16 or so I expect that the rules will be down to "Don't wake up sleeping people."

Ok, I'm glad you clarified that. It looked above as if programming would count as screen time. My parents never limited my computer access since we got a 286 when I was two, but I also never had youtube as a temptation. At age 11 I was spending every night working on my website, hanging out on freenode, and playing TFC. As long as my grades were good, my parents didn't impose any time limits or even bed time. I was expected to manage that myself.

I often wonder if those of us who first experienced computers in the 90s (And remember DOS->Win 3.1->95->98->XP) are the last generation for who a computer was a fascinating thing to learn, as now things seem to be moving to computers/tablets/smart phones merely being consumption and social sharing devices. There were several of us that learned HTML in elementary school for our angelfire pages. I can't understand the fascination people have now at watching other people play games on youtube/whatever that other site is. Oh well, C'est la vie.

Hey, that last sounds like me. I had books confiscated as a kid in english class because I read too much. This wasn't a big deal, because I always carried at least three, but looking back it's pretty funny.

Let me share the unusual approach my father applied.

When I turned 8, the deal was to read the chapter of a book (real book, like Jules Verne, Arthur Clarke, etc..) and write it's synopsis. Dad would than read it and correct the grammatical mistakes. If all was well and done, I was allowed 2h of screen time.

Never seen another dad with such an odd methodology

If I ever have kids, this sounds like a good idea. If my parents had limited screen time, this is how I would have wanted it to be limited.

Only tangentially related, but I thought it was relevant enough to post here: Andy Baio wrote a post about how he's introducing his son to videogames.


I would like to add one other small question for a soon to be 3 year old, how to encourage books over tech?

As a new parent I quickly learned that kids emulate what they see (and they seem to pay more attention that we give them credit for) In an effort to prove this out my wife and I got library cards and started reading books during my daughter's (alone) play time after dinner. Very soon after this experiment started she too started picking books and now likes to read (recite from memory) her bed-time books.

This is the only answer, in my opinion. I was in the kitchen using google to set my alarms to time the oven, and by that evening she was taking her tablet and saying "Ok google".... Now I'm buying a kitchen timer

Father of a 4 year old boy here. The way you encourage reading, it seems to me, is to read books to your child and read your own books. If there's a micro-culture of literacy in your home, it's easy. A good time to read to your child is right before bedtime. It also helps with bedtime by easing the child into going to bed as a positive routine (instead of child feeling "I have to stop doing [thing child enjoys] because it's bedtime.")

Do you really think there is an advantage to books over tech? I tend to think most people are attached to books for nostalgic reasons.

There's an emphasis on words and stories with books that's difficult to emulate fully with tech. I talk extensively with my son about what we read, and about what he does on the ipad. Those conversations are similar, but qualitatively different as well.

There are also some physical skills that kids develop from learning to turn pages, and handle books.

Books and devices are going to be around for a long time. Kids who develop appropriate fluency with both are going to be in a better position to make sense of their world.

How many pixels of resolution and what latency of screen refresh does your imagination offer? That's what stories offer - a personalized virtual reality with higher resolution than all current tech. Books are a delivery mechanism for stories. Poems offer even more - the brain fills in the blanks.

Books and poetry? Seems constricting, why not just put your kids in a float tank and let them have free run of their imaginations without the constrictions of words and thoughts of other people. How else will they free themselves of societies biases, man? ಠ_ಠ

Your approach seems almost like saying never take a kid on a trip to the grand canyon or show them a picture or video of it, when you can read them a poem or stage an interpretive dance about the grand canyon instead.

The comparison was books vs. tech, not books vs. reality.

Banning is a poor substitute for discretion.

I wonder if you can have a favorite e-book the same way you can have a favorite physical book? My favorite books I read multiple times, they have become worse for wear, I know every wrinkle I made while reading it, and, while reading it, it just feels right in my hands. I don't have that with e-books. Yes, the content is the same, but I am less able to form an attachment to a virtual copy than I am to a physical copy. Somehow, the holistic experience of reading a physical book versus reading an e-book on a e-book reader is different, although the actual content in both manifestations is the same. Maybe I am old-fashioned, but books and series I care about more, I still get physical copies. For my light reading, however, I'm fine with e-books.

Each have their use cases/advantages. & Im not sure that people cling to print solely due to nostalgia/habit.

We have just returned to the UK after three years in a small country that had hardly a bookshop, where we've been relying on ebooks.

First day in UK we took our 5yo to Hamleys (Toy Shop) and Foyles (book shop). It was a revelation to her. But I can't tell you how enthused we all were by the variety and quality of print books.

For me the ebook/interactive app doesn't really offer yet the immersive experience of print (especially for childrens books). Even for technical books/literature, I find it difficult to get wrapped up in an ebook (perhaps because there are so many distractions a swipe away).

simply to have the brain be more active than passive and stimulate imagination.

But this is a free world and everyone to feel what they think is correct. Reading education and brain development materials could help deciding on what is good or not.

Parent of a 7yo and an almost 3yo with no TV at home, no computer time at all, and few iphone screen-time: only screen time is during long flights to Europe or somewhere else, road trips or when they are really sick. And the few screen time is always watching something in their second language (primary is English) as we're raising them bilingual. Again, this is our decision and this is a free world.

Why? because we feel that encouraging imagination development is key for their future as an adult being artistic or more technical. As adults we are constantly using our imagination for thinking out of the box, reaching far in our imagination for creating new solutions, etc.

No judging here and everyone can have is own point of view; and at the end who knows who is right or wrong? My only advice would be for the parents to educate themselves more on brain development and use their own judgement when reading such materials (often really opinionated).

I believe there are definitely advantages. The one that comes to mind is that physical books tend to offer fewer distractions than tech, encouraging focus on one thing (at least for me).

I like the physical collection you can have with books. Ebooks don't really fulfill that. Also, new books smell awesome.

Kids get distracted easily. With a book, there are no buttons to distract them.

Since our daughter was three, we have read aloud to each other every night. Like others in this thread, we don't have a TV. When she was younger, she would sometimes draw or play with Playmobil while we read, but still we would always read together. When she became old enough, we would pass the book around and each read a bit. She would typically read one or two pages, a "reading sacrifice," while one of us would finish the chapter. She is now 10. We still read to each other every night, and she herself has become a voracious reader as well as an enthusiastic writer, using google docs to collaborate with friends and share with family and teachers. She reads chapters of her favorite books or her own writing aloud to us. She has her own laptop computer (chromebook to dual-boot linux for Minecraft), which I think she uses responsibly. When she goes online to chat with friends or play on a Minecraft server, she tells us where she's going. Just as we'd want to know if she's visiting a friend's house, we want to know who she's spending time with online. Ditching the TV (who needs it?) and replacing it with family reading has been wonderful for all of us.

There are so many great books that are enjoyable for young and old alike. It will of course depend on your and your child's proclivities, but our favorites over the years have included: The Wizard of Oz books (all 12 volumes, some of which are quite dark, except Ozma's birthday; blech); The Ramayana (seriously); Winnie the Pooh; Stuart Little; Narnia; Hobbit; Sherlock Holmes; Agatha Christie (we read 60 of these together after she turned 7; her favorite is The Body in the Library); Hugo Cabret; The Golden Compass; Sea of Trolls; Treasure Island; Tripods; Wrinkle in Time; Earthsea Trilogy; LOTR; Rumpole of the Bailey; James Thurber; Lemony Snicket (esp. All the Wrong Questions). In addition, she has her own favorites that she's read alone to herself over the years.

She also reads many graphic novels, which have greatly influenced her own storytelling and art. She has loved Amulet, Flight, Delilah Dirk, In Real Life, The Silver Six, Ghostopolis, Bad Island, Zita the Space Girl, Drama, Sisters, Smile, Rapunzel's Revenge, Bone.

For reading aloud, I especially recommend Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, and other crime/mystery books with 19th-century decorum. They expose the crime, puzzles, characters, and social dynamics, while leaving the explicit sex and violence off stage. (She can of course ask about anything she likes.)

I hope people will respond with their favorite out-loud reading books.

Read to them. That's it. Just read to them regularly.

This. Plenty of citations backing it up here: http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=reading-to-young-chil...

Read to your child and make it fun. Do different accents. Do funny voices. Read with expression. Read a page backwards. Read it to a beat. Best of all, hold your kid when you read to them. Also, use stories as rewards.

That's a really important question. How much exposure to books do they currently have?

I don't mind my daughter using a tablet—but I'd much rather her using interactive apps rather than watching videos. Her iPad gets put in airplane mode sometimes so YouTube doesn't work. But as long as it's active rather than passive, I don't mind. (Not that she uses it constantly, though—there's plenty of other things she likes to do as well).

We let my (now 7.5 y/o) son start using a tablet when he was about that age. But it wasn't "his", we allowed it mostly in the car (we live in a rural area and it's a long way to anywhere) and limited the games on it. Now, it's a lot easier, with the Kindle Fire tablets, you can set up FreeTime which allows setting time limits for different things and can require stuff like reading books for an hour before you can play games. With regular Android tablets, you can set up a limited user and control what apps are accessible to that user, it doesn't enforce time limits, but simply taking the tablet away from the child works pretty well for that :). He's getting his first real computer this year (an older Dell laptop) with Linux on it, I'm planning on teaching him the bare essentials and letting him figure the rest out himself (and doing some filtering at the router for that MAC address).

The first thing I do is to be specific about the types of screen time:

1. Active and positive, such as educational, creative: example: math apps, spelling apps, etc.

2. Passive but positive: example: watching professional figure skaters so my daughter can understand how good one can get in an area/field

3. Passive and mindless: example: movies

4. Net negatives: example: broadcast TV with advertisements

Net negatives

- Our daughters have nearly zero exposure to net negatives.

Passive and mindless

- Movies, iPad games, etc. are limited. In terms of time, probably 1 or fewer movies per week (so max 90 minutes per week).

Passive but positive

- These are unlimited b/c it helps the girls understand what's possible.

- In terms of time, it's very adhoc. My daughters will watch when they want inspiration.

- My older daughter tends to watch things like piano, ice skating, skate boarding, and other activities that she's into.

- Both girls are allowed to sit with my wife and I when we're watching technology training videos. You'd be amazed at how much our 7 year old knows about big data tech like Hive.

Active and positive

- Unlimited, but the girls tend to self regulate. IMO, self regulation is a skill and I'd rather they learn it early in life.

- I've observed interesting learning patterns when the kids are allowed to really focus on a topic until they master it.

Lastly, the biggest thing I do is integrate digital experiences with experiential / real-world learning. For example, each spring my daughters and I do a thing we call Flower Walk. Basically, we walk around the neighborhood, they smell and take pictures of flowers, then they look information about each flower up on their iPad's.

Love YouTube but hate the comments/suggestions/ratings so made http://www.kidsfriend.ly/. Unfortunately the ads can't be removed and are annoying. This is not a perfect solution but solves the problem at some extent.

We treat the interactive stuff - Angry Birds, puzzles, drawing - as we would their physical equivalents. I don't see an enormous difference between a puzzle on the iPad and a cardboard puzzle. We limit non-interactive things (surfing YouTube) as we would television time.

The problem is that some "interactive stuff", like Farmville and Candy Crush and to some degree Angry Birds, is more similar to a Skinner Box than any true interactive environment. Books and puzzle are much less likely to push those buttons.

Also I think there is a worthwhile kinesthetic element on puzzles that is lost online. That could vary from learning to precisely line up puzzle pieces to other things. For instance my younger DS enjoys both the ipad and physical versions of Rush Hour/RHjr. Honestly, setting up the board in physical version is more of a sequencing challenge than solving the puzzles... I know... that makes no sense... however I've seen it again and again. The physical version teachs a superset of the sequencing, planning, and visual skills of the app.

My oldest is 3.5. We don't have cable. She gets to watch YouTube sometimes when her little sister is taking a nap and we can't get her to stay quiet. Otherwise basically zero screen time. We hope to keep it that way as long as possible. She'll never have a TV in her room. I find that horrible. Video games will appear eventually, and a computer... Not sure yet how to handle it. Don't want her to just sit there all day. She's had a bit of iPad time but not much and we are trying to limit it to only a rate once in a while.

My 10yo daughter got a school-provided tablet. This would have set off an avalanche of time-wasting grooming virtual horses, tending virtual gardens, raising virtual horses and doing $deity-knows-what, were it not for the fact that she is limited to an average of 1 hour of screen time a day. She already had a phone which runs a home-built (Android) distribution with a few tweaks to keep her sane. It runs a variety of free software, does not show any advertising, and has a white-listed time limit on activities.

As the mentioned tablet is made by this site's favourite company and, as such, rather restricted in what can be done with it, I started to create a few tools to get her to use the thing in a more productive (versus the mentioned 'consumptive') way. For now, this is mostly related to reading books [1][2] and other documents from our rather extensive personal collection. I also got her a Raspberry Pi 'just for fun, to see what can be done with it'. We'll probably set it up to control the RGB LED spot she got for her birthday, 'just for fun'. I put this between quotes because I do have a deeper meaning with these experiments: show her that she can use her creativity and imagination to make things happen that did not happen before. Things she made herself, which her friends do not have. That creating something can be more giving than grooming that virtual horse for the umpteenth time...

My other daughter is 3, she goes to daycare ('dagis' in Swedish) for 15 hours per week. At 'dagis' they also have one of those mentioned tablets, when I ask her what she's done that day she'll respond with 'I played on the tablet'. But did you not do anything else? 'No, I only played on the tablet'. This does not seem to be true, as they state children only get about 10 minutes on the thing, but it does make me doubt the wisdom of having these tablets in a daycare centre. The whole idea with sending her there is that she can interact with other children after all...

[1] https://apps.owncloud.com/content/show.php?content=167127 [2] https://apps.owncloud.com/content/show.php?content=168132

One idea I picked up somewhere: Give kids screen credit, for example 10 coins per week, each worth 30 minutes of screen time. This allows them to freely manage it (e.g. a little bit every day vs. a long Minecraft session on the weekend), while it's a clear rule and limit at the same time.

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