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Small kids are spending 10x more time in front of small screens

The good news: TV time is down for the littlest of kiddos versus 2011. ?

Small kids are spending 10x more time in front of small screens

Six years doesn’t seem that long ago to many of us, but a lot has changed in terms of technology use: For kids younger than 8 years old, average daily screen time on handheld devices is up 10 times over 2011, according to Common Sense Media’s 2017 census.


But while this stat isn’t necessarily something to be celebrated, it’s only one piece of the larger painting about how kids and families are interacting with screens today. As a whole, it seems we’re doing pretty good jobs at striking balance with those screens.

According to the new report from nonprofit Common Sense Media, young kids spent about five minutes a day on a phone or tablet back in 2011. In the years since, handheld screen time has steadily escalated—with the average little one of today using a mobile screen for 48 minutes.

The good news is that while mobile use by kids younger than 8 years old is up, TV time for babies is down.

In 2013, kids under 2 years old spent 58 minutes a day engaged with screen media; that’s down to 42 minutes now. This makes sense, as pediatric guidelines for limiting screen time are strictest for kids under 2—and market reports show sales on DVDs and videos for infants are down.

“There really is fairly strong evidence that time spent with screens can have a negative effect on kids’ language and other forms of development,” Matthew Johnson, the Director of Education for MediaSmarts, previously told Motherly.

He said this isn’t because screens are inherently bad, but they should not be used as substitutions for the kinds of human interaction and creative play that young kids need to develop. (This doesn’t include the videos or games that Common Sense Media found are favorites for little kids.)

One thing is clear from the report: Screen time is part of daily life for many families, and it’s up to parents to make mindful choices about how—and how often—our kids engage with screen-based technology.

Back in 2011, that meant stepping away from the TV more often—while, today, it means putting that cell phone on airplane mode.

This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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I have two kids—and I think I'm done

The idea of "more," making more money, obtaining more things—and in my case, creating more life—is not necessarily the ticket to a happier life.

I met my best friend Katie in fifth grade and one of our most favorite games to play was MASH. Our future fates would be decided by one "magic number" where one of us counted the rings on a spiral circle after the other screamed STOP as loud as humanly possible. "Future Husband" and "Number of Children" were clearly our two favorite categories. I remember my "magic combination," and it was marrying Mel Gibson plus having four kids.

And my plan was to do all of this by the time I reached 27. Getting married and having children would be the ultimate climax of life. At the age of nine, the pressure was on to best prepare for the long climb to the top.

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