Is screen time educational or distracting? How to use it effectively?

Is screen time educational or distracting? How to use screen time for the benefit of your child?

Screen Time – Educational or Distracting?

Updated on Dec’19: This is one of the most loved posts from the time when I’d just started blogging. Just like any other first-time new parent we had no idea about the ill effects of screen time. Or you may say we didn’t know whether it helps or hampers the child’s growth.

It was Nemit’s vaccination at 15 months when we met his pediatrician after a gap of 3 months. While asking some general questions about his health, she asked us how many words does he speak and how much screen time we are offering him.

Well, we were happily showing him 1-2 hrs of daily rhymes thinking that he is learning something good while watching TV. And I was using that time for myself. But I simply failed to observe that he was not learning any words from those songs. He would be glued at one place for 2 hrs, eyes on the screen with a blank expression on his face.

According to the doctor, at around 15 months he should be speaking at least 7-8 meaningful words and that list should keep expanding with each month. Now, this was alarming for us because Nemit was hardly speaking any words except for Mumma & Papa.

Is screen time educational or distracting? How to use screen time for the benefit of your child?


“It is recommended to avoid any screen media (TV, mobile phones, tablets, computers) for babies 0 to 18 months old” – WHO

She explained to us that the human brain is the least developed of our organ systems at birth. Most of its development occurs in the first two years of life. Neurologists have identified three types of stimuli that helps in brain growth.

(1) Babies need interaction with parents and other humans.

(2) They need to manipulate their environment (to touch things, to feel and move them).

(3) They need to do “problem-solving” activities.

Of these three critical forms of interaction, television provides none.

Our doctor then advised us to reduce his screen time gradually & bring it to zero in 10-15 days. Now, this was a BIG TASK for me. Because hey, I needed a break too & I had no help at home.

But being a mother, I know there is nothing which we can’t do for our little ones. We can fight the greatest battles for the well-being of our kids. Hence I took this challenge to see if it actually works or not. And alongside I started doing my research on screen time.

And I found out that there was already a lot of debate going on this topic.

Is screen time educational or distracting? How to use screen time for the benefit of your child?


Is staying away from screen really the best approach?

There is research that shows when parents make screen use an interactive, shared experience, it can become a tool for learning and the potential negative effects can be reduced.

But moderation is the key. Let us understand a bit about Screen time.

There is Passive Screen Time which is like watching cartoons or rhymes or movies. Kids’ TV has become little more than a tool for keeping children from tearing up the living room.

And then there is Active Screen Time which is like communicating via Skype or playing an interactive game but it should not take the place of activities and games that should happen in the real world of a child.

We can move from a “no screen time” recommendation to “mindful screen time” in today’s media-manic world

But How?

Simply by following the 3C’s mantra- the Content, the Context, and the Child.

  • This means being choosy about the type of content (apps, games, TV shows) you let your child see, such as electronic picture books, interactive apps or personal videos of family.
  • Be aware of the context as to how their usage may be affecting other interests or activities, such as outdoor play.
  • And be alert to the needs of the child as an individual: A child will react in unique ways to what he or she sees and plays with.

In comparison to the high stimulation that media screen offers, real-life can seem slow and children can respond to it with boredom and inattentiveness.

Eliminating screen time is a choice for engagement over stimulation and activity over passivity. The choice is ours.

As per my experience, achieving zero screen time is possible but if you can’t do that try interactive screen time. I tried to involve Nemit in fun and interactive stimulation activities using the DIY approach.

Screen Time – Educational or Distracting?

Here is a list of 30 age-wise Stimulation Activities which you can do with your baby – 30 Stimulation Activities

After 3 months –

It’s been 3 months after that visit to the doctor and since then we are following ‘zero screen time’. Within a month Nemit started speaking 5 new words, there is an improvement in his understanding of things, he happily copies the actions we do while singing rhymes.

I believe it’s not just the baby who is growing it is also ‘the parents’ who are growing & learning with them each day.

This post was first published on Babychakra. To read this article, Click here!


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    Ajita Chhabra August 1, 2017 at 5:05 pm - Reply

    So meaningful experience u shared Neha.. Really kids need our time n affection to grow beautifully inside out…. We as parents need to understand the right way to help them develop their mind n body..
    Nice work done by you..
    Keep da ball rolling..

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      Neha Sharma August 1, 2017 at 9:33 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much Ajita for your valuable input. Thanks for liking my write up..feel free to share any posts with your family & friends if you want. Hugs.

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    Jordan September 11, 2017 at 10:49 pm - Reply

    A great topic! As a first time mom this was something I struggled to decide on. We closely monitor what our toddler watches (PBS shows like Daniel tiger and Superwhy). I also like to interact with him during the show (get up and stomp along to the number of the day on Sesame Street, answer questions on Super Why). Moderation is definitely key as well!!

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      Neha Sharma September 12, 2017 at 12:25 pm - Reply

      Thanks for sharing your views Jordan 🙂

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    Ashley September 12, 2017 at 7:54 am - Reply

    Great read! I am a huge advocate for turning the tv off and playing. Even with it on in the background it can be distracting and take away from the learning. Thanks for sharing!

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      Neha Sharma September 12, 2017 at 12:27 pm - Reply

      Yes, totally agree with your point, even if the TV is On in the background it acts as a distraction. Thanks for liking this post! 🙂

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    Mai Edwards September 12, 2017 at 11:46 am - Reply

    Awesome post mama. I struggled with the same thing with my little girl but now after baby #2, I have gone with my gut and always trying to find the balance of it all.

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      Neha Sharma September 12, 2017 at 12:28 pm - Reply

      Great that you are now following your instincts, Mom always knows best. Thanks Mai 🙂

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    Kinshoo September 13, 2017 at 1:32 am - Reply

    Somehow we managed Zero screen time till 1 year and few months after that. Gradually we started with few poems. Though Darsh was late in speaking but surprisingly he had picked up a lot of words from poems i used to sing and what he watched. It was just that he didn’t feel like repeating till his 2nd bday. The No Screen Time activities u mentioned r great. Thanks.

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      Neha Sharma September 24, 2017 at 10:53 pm - Reply

      Thanks for sharing your experience ❤

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    Richa Kaushik September 7, 2018 at 11:38 pm - Reply

    My bahy is 16 months and screen time is still zero… She speaks a few words in her babbke form like laptop charger fan door duddhu mumma papa baba Chachi shoes ets but clearly she can speak a few andshe identifies a lot of things…. She lives music n dance but not interested in structured activities…she loves to explore outdoors and nature … Other ppl and their houses 😋
    ….. It’s an awesome blog….gave me a good sigh of relief 💗👍

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