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Not all screen-time is created equal!

Jan 10, 2023
A young boy watching a Clap for Classics video on a laptop with the words

Screen time can be a hot, controversial topic among parents of little ones. When you hear “screen time”, does it spark feelings of guilt, anxiety, relief, or maybe curiosity? How much is too much? What makes some media content more acceptable than others?


At Clap for Classics, we’ve created a program for young children that is educational, interactive, fun, and…happens via a screen. So, of course we’ve done our research on screen time, and attempted to answer the above questions. (spoiler -- there are no absolute answers and you’ll still have to decide what’s best for your family…) We at Clap for Classics argue that “screen time” doesn’t have to be a bad word. Within healthy parameters, screen time can be something that adds great value to your family’s life.


Let’s start with what the experts say about screen time. Below, you can read 5 of the highlights we’ve found in our research. Then keep reading, to hear our take on these highlights.


1. Time limit recommendations by age group published by The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)


  • Avoid digital media use (except video-chatting) in children younger than 18 to 24 months.
  • For children ages 18 to 24 months of age, if you want to introduce digital media, choose high-quality programming and use media together with your child. Avoid solo media use in this age group.
  • For children 2 to 5 years of age, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programming, co-view with your children. Help children understand what they are seeing, and help them apply what they learn to the world around them.


 2. Quality screen time


The AAP recommends: Avoid fast-paced programs (young children do not understand them as well), apps with lots of distracting content, and any violent content.” They emphasize seeking out well-designed programs, created with input from educators or developmental specialists, that are intended to be viewed with both a child and a caretaker.


3. Co-viewing with your child



This is emphasized as an important way to make screen time count.  The AAP encourages co-viewing so that caretakers can help children understand what they are seeing, and help them apply what they learn to the world around them.


4. Concerns associated with screen time



Heavy media use in preschool years has been associated with obesity risk, sleeping less, and developmental delays.An earlier age of media use onset, greater cumulative hours of media use, and non-PBS content all are significant independent predictors of poor executive functioning in preschoolers.” (AAP)


5. Routines


Avoid using screen time as the primary way to regulate your child’s emotions. Stick to an established routine for screen time so kids know when to expect it. Do not use screen time as part of the bedtime routine. 



Time Recommendations


We all know that our young kids shouldn’t be consuming hours and hours of media each day. Short, meaningful chunks of time should be the goal. Clap for Classics courses are designed in small blocks of time. Each course in the library has a series of a dozen or so short (2-7 minute) videos around one theme. Many families like to watch one, two, or three videos at a time. These videos can be repeated later, this way kids become more familiar with the musical and educational content, get more interactive and practice developmental skills over time. There is also an option to watch the “complete playthrough” of a music course, which generally takes 40-50 minutes (still under 1 hour!).



Choose high quality screen time for your young children


There is a huge spectrum when it comes to quality of screen time content. You want your child to learn as much as they possibly can in these early years, and your child just wants to have fun.


Clap for Classics music courses fits the bill, and match the AAP recommendations perfectly. With a thoughtful curriculum created by experienced educators, our videos are simply filmed with minimal bells and whistles -- allowing you and your child to focus more on YOUR musical, playful experience as you interact with us, and less on all the distracting graphics and animations you might see in other apps or shows.


Each video was planned and scripted with your child in mind, to engage them in a variety of developmentally appropriate learning activities, teach them music fundamentals, and facilitate a playful bonding experience between caretaker and child.



Watch screens with your toddler or preschooler


In addition to monitoring the quality of screen time content, the AAP recommends watching media with your child. In this way you can help them understand what they’re seeing, reteach the content away from the screen, and have valuable parent-child interaction.


We know it’s not always possible to sit down with your child to watch Clap for Classics videos, but if you do, you’ll find it to be a rewarding experience. Not only will you be able to see and help your child learn, but you’ll discover new ways to interact with your child through music, movement and games. And, you might even learn something new yourself! You and your child will end up singing the songs and playing the games together away from the screens.


Parents are busy, and sometimes screens can be a useful or necessary tool when you just need to get something done. We’ve designed our videos so that kids can watch without a grownup -- this especially makes sense when you are on round 2 or 3 of a particular video or course -- you’ve already watched it once, and if you feel like it you can even comment, or maybe even sing along from the kitchen as you hear it in the background! 


The American Psychological Association has a similar take:

Co-viewing may seem a steep price to pay for parents who are desperate to use their child’s screen time to make dinner or pack tomorrow’s lunch, but it doesn’t have to be a full-time job. Rather, she recommends parents should aim to scaffold their child’s screen time, first watching a few episodes with them and talking about the content, then stepping back and checking in as the child becomes familiar with how media works.


Negative effects of screen time have less to do with the screen itself


Child development, obesity, sleep habits …We don’t take these concerns lightly. We all want our child to be healthy and developing in the best possible environment! Some suggest that the negative effects of screen time actually have less to do with the screen time itself, and more to do with the lack of high quality parent-child interaction in kids who spend a lot of time on screens. Not to mention that large amounts of time on screens simply takes away from time that could be spent in play, exercise, and socializing. So…aside from screens, parenting matters. Big surprise? Not really.


The AAP proves it:

Notably, the quality of parenting can modify associations between media use and child development: one study found that inappropriate content and inconsistent parenting had cumulative negative effects on low-income preschoolers’ executive function, whereas warm parenting and educational content interacted to produce additive benefits.


Did you catch that? “Additive benefits.If you are parenting with intention, and spending meaningful time with your child each day, you have less to worry about when it comes to screens! If you are choosing educational content for your child’s screen time, you are adding value to their life. If your child has the opportunity to exercise, play, and socialize away from screens frequently, you are doing an amazing job.


Clap for Classics videos can facilitate parent-child bonding time as you watch the videos together, and then continue playing, singing, and learning away from the screen. Many of the Clap for Classics activities include some type of movement (exercise!), many are collaborative (social!) and many encourage using your imagination (play!).


Make screen time part of a routine


Are you even a parent if you haven’t experienced a meltdown when you ask your child to turn off their screen? This is natural and expected, but setting predictable screen times can help. Knowing that they will always have screen time during a particular part of the day or week creates comfort and security.


Making it a part of the routine rather than a reward (or punishment) also keeps screens from gaining too much power.


Sticking to your routines keeps you from falling into the trap of using screens to regulate emotions or sticky situations. That said, you might be interested to learn Susie Allison’s (aka Busy Toddler) approach to screen time routines within a framework of considering screens a parenting tool, with parents always maintaining control of the tool. 


Along the same lines, we love @thegamereducator’s take on “healthy” screen time: 

I define “healthy” screen time as: an amount and content that benefits everyone in the family. The amount a child watches and the content a child watches should be a net positive for everyone in the family.


If your child is watching Clap for Classics while you are getting something done for yourself or your family, you are both getting your needs met AND you don’t need to waste any energy questioning the content or educational value of their experience. 


While some screen time can bring out upsetting or aggressive behavior, Clap for Classics usually just brings out more…singing! Also more sharing of fun facts, music terminology, and playfulness. Sounds like a net positive for the family to me!


It is possible to integrate screen time in a healthy way.


We hope this information helps you as you navigate the world of screens with your child. The fact is -- though some of us would like to deny it and crawl back in time to a simpler place -- screens are here to stay in our world, and our children will grow up surrounded by technology!  You CAN integrate screen time in a healthy, positive way and set your kids up for great success.  


Important screen time takeaways:

  • 1 hour or less per day, in general
  • Co-view when possible
  • Choose educational content that is high quality and slow paced
  • Make it part of your routine
  • Parent with intention, and provide your child with ample opportunities for play, socializing, parent-child bonding and exercise.


To read the entire AAP Policy Statement regarding media and young minds, click here.

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