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'Screens' v 'Eye-ball to Eye-ball'

This week a friend asked for ideas for her 14 month old child to do – she said her little one has not yet been introduced to technology, and she wants other things she can do with him. I love it that he is still an innocent in terms of the ‘Screen’.

‘Screen’ seems such an innocuous word when it links with what we watch. It implies that unnecessary or harmful material has been Screened out, so what we see is beneficial. And we all know that is untrue.

Our screens are the overt as well as subliminal routes to so much brain-washing and damage, - and yet can also be the way to gain so much excellent knowledge and guidance.

They are also some of the things that most stand between you and your child, cutting out the direct, ‘eye-ball to eye-ball’ conversations that are essential to helping your child develop healthy communication.

It all depends on how and what we do with screens, for ourselves as well as for our children.

Research from many different sources is looking at the reasons for delays in communication skills, behaviour abnormalities, and violence, among other things. Evidence is growing that TV, computers, and hand-held devices are significant contributors.

Mankind has made an amazing step forward in developing these technologies. However, if we do not find a way to control them in our usage, we risk losing some of our most precious attributes as human beings who are capable of talking, and smiling, and interacting with other human beings.

Recommendations from all professionals I have read are that children below 2 years should not have any ‘screen’ time, or only if it is linked with reading and talking with an adult carer, and is a brief interaction.

Small children should not be left to watch things alone: a parent needs to be present and actively part of what the child is watching. That way it is possible to monitor the content but also develop the child's awareness and communication - and yours. As adults we see things so differently, and talking with your child about what he is watching can bring some surprising ideas from him.

When my older son was about 8 years, he started having nightmares that woke him screaming in the night. He was reluctant to go to sleep, It took a lot of Indirect chatting and playing with him before eventually, I discovered that it was the film 'ET' that had triggered these dreams. What was to me an innocuous funny little alien, 'ET' was to my son a terrifying monster that wanted to take out his heart. Having watched the film with him, we could talk about it. Now, we can laugh about it.

If you are busy and need the child to self-occupy, leaving him in front of a screen may keep even a hyperactive child quiet, but don't kid yourself that he is 'learning' - the input he gets from what he watches goes into his mind with little or no point of reference in his mind to interpret what he sees.

It often shocks me that a child who is like a crazy non-stop whirligig most of the time, and is labeled as having 'poor attention skills', can be put in front of a screen and be totally mesmerised for long periods!

Does that mean that his hyperactivity can be helped by giving him screen time? It is much more likely that sitting in front of a screen with images and action but no requirement to process them, makes it harder for him to process his physically chaotic activity. Watching random uninterpreted sequences on a screen is the visual version of his physical chaos.

Better to give him an activity he can play with like lego, or colouring. Give him a time limit, with a timer or egg timer, so you can monitor and encourage him frequently.

Or let him be a part of what you are doing! Cooking, housework, draw him into the 'game', it takes longer but you and he gain so much from the interactions and fun.


  1. Avoid all ‘screens’ with children below 2 years. Enjoy playing other games – or giving constructional toys to the child

to encourage interaction with other children or adults, rather than passive watching.

  1. When introducing a child to a screened activity, do it with him/her. Link it with talking, taking turns in a game, or singing, so that your interaction is integral to the experience.

  2. NO passive ‘screen-time’. Even TV in the background limits the amount of conversation, the focus, and the attention, you can give to your child. And your child’s need to learn to focus and listen is distracted by constant TV presence.

  3. Watch the TV or Screen actively, and intentionally, with a specific chosen programme, that you can talk about afterwards. Turn it off once the programme ends.

  4. Keep strict limits to game – playing: both the type of game, and the amount of time allowed. These are addictive, and better to limit from the beginning than try to stop once the addiction has taken root

These issues are big ones! please share your thoughts about protecting our children - but also developing their healthy use.

Have a great week

Margi Kulsoom

Articles and research:

Television viewing associates with delayed language development

Weerasak Chonchaiya, Chandhita Pruksananonda;jsessionid=769A49F57B74F338D8AEF770D7B05640.f02t01

Young children and screen time (tv, computers, etc)
Padma Ravichandran, Brandel France de Bravo, MPH,
and Rebecca Beauport
National Center for Health Research

Other articles:

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