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Should Babies Watch TV or Movies?

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Filling the days with educational and age-appropriate activities for your baby can be really hard work and sometimes, you may opt to put the TV on just to get a break.

This is totally normal, but should babies watch TV or movies? Does a little TV do them any real harm?

In this article, we will cover what goes on during these stages of early brain development, how screen time affects your child, and give you some great alternative ideas for playtime.

What Counts As Screen Time?

With most homes having an abundance of technology nowadays, it can be hard to prevent your little one from catching a glimpse of some of this technology in their early years of life.

As a general term, screen time means platforms such as TVs, mobile phones, tablets, consoles, and other devices. Screen time is more than just watching a screen, often it involves becoming physically inactive in a time you would be active.

As an example, your baby being distracted by the TV could happen during a time where they’d be otherwise learning new skills and taking in all the information around them from daily activities, playtime, and stories.

There’s no denying spending quality time interacting and speaking to your child is the best way to build strong, loving bonds and nurture their growing brains.

They are constantly taking information in from the world around them which shapes them into the adults they will become.

How Does Screen Time Affect My Baby?

The World Health Organization guidelines state that there is no benefit to screen-time for a child under the age of two years old.

There have been decades of research on this topic and although nothing is conclusive, the general ruling is to avoid screen time as much as possible in young children.

It takes roughly 18 months for an infant’s brain to develop enough to correlate the link between what they see on screen to real-world objects/ scenarios.

This means that although they may be watching the screen, it is more than likely due to the fact that there are constantly moving shapes, colors, and noise that draws their attention, not that they have an understanding of what is happening in front of them.

An infant’s brain will triple in mass during their first year of life, and this is all influenced by the world around them. 

Evidence has suggested that screen time before 18 months has lasting effects on several aspects of your infant’s development such as language, reading, and short-term memory.

Blue light is also well known to wire their brains, preventing sleep and causing more issues at bedtime. 

Don’t get us wrong, TV can be a great educational tool if you use the correct shows that use math, literacy, and model good learning behaviors. But sadly this isn’t effective until over the age of two.

Through an infant’s eyes, something as simple as reading a book will teach them about communication, introduce concepts such as letters, color, and numbers as well as information about the world around them they are yet to discover!

Healthy Television Habits For Your Baby

Parenting is HARD, we get it. Sometimes your TV will be an amazing tool if you have a task that needs taking care of, such as feeding other children or making a coffee after another night of very little sleep.

Here are some ways to create a healthy relationship with technology and make sure your infant is not ruled by screen time.

If you do choose to have your baby watch television, make it a shared experience. This can promote a healthy bond together as you spend time discussing and pointing out what is being shown on the screen.

Your baby can recognize your voice before they are even born and it is often the best way for them to learn. Use lots of exciting facial expressions and explain the colors, shapes, and anything else you can see on the screen.

This makes the experience a more beneficial one and promotes the development of speech. Make sure you’re watching age-appropriate videos too, this means your little one has less chance of overstimulation or exposure to inappropriate words/ scenes. 

Fun Tech-Free Play Time Ideas

Running out of ideas to entertain your little one and avoid racking up hours of screen time? Here are some of our favorite tried and tested playtime ideas for your little one aged from 0-2.

1. Music

Often you will find families use their television to create background noise and fill the silence whilst their child plays or takes part in other activities.

Another great idea is to put on some music on the radio or a CD, dancing releases feel-good endorphins into your bloodstream that your little one is also going to pick up on.

So have a dance party or just sing to them, they’re going to love the quality time with you whilst strengthening your bond!

2. Reading

Reading to your little one at ANY age whether they’re newborn or a toddler is so beneficial. Even though they may not necessarily understand what you are saying, this will begin to stimulate their cognitive development, language, and social skills.

Pointing to the objects in a picture book creates a link that will lead to easier communication as they begin to talk.

It is never too late to start a love of reading with your little one, they will love watching you turn the pages and introduce them to all these amazing new sounds and pictures.

3. Tuff Tray

Tuff-trays are such an amazingly versatile tool that EVERY parent should have. When your child is young, they are a great way to contain mess for some exciting messy sensory play, but they continue to prove useful even with older toddlers.

If your little one is under 1 year old, chances are they still try to put everything into their mouth, that is how they learn after all.

Making sensory play taste safe means you don’t need to worry they may choke or get hurt. Here are some of our favorite simple sensory play ideas: 

  • Mirrors
  • Light up-balls
  • Sponges and water
  • Corn starch & water
  • Dyed rice/ pasta and spoons
  • Jello
  • Velcro
  • Bubbles
  • Cotton balls in the water
  • Cooked spaghetti

FAQs

Is TV bad for a baby’s eyes?

Although the age-old myth says sitting too close to the television can be damaging to your little one’s eyes, in fact, there is no evidence to support this. So no, sitting too close to the television will not hurt or damage your little one eyes and vision.

Can I watch TV when my baby sleeps?

The message from the American Academy of Pediatrics is that if no one is watching the TV, turn it off. They recommend no more than two hours a day or age-appropriate TV. So if your baby is asleep and not bothered by the noise, go ahead.

Can TV overstimulate a newborn?

A newborn will often only want to lay on mom and feed frequently, so TV isn’t the best idea at this age.

They have rapid image and sound changes that will over-stimulate their senses and brain although they may seem engrossed in the screen, this is just to do with the sound and visual appeal.

The Final Thought

Finally, don’t beat yourself up if your baby has screen time. Although it isn’t recommended, sometimes you just need 10 minutes of peace and that’s okay, it’s hard work raising little ones and in small doses.

Screen time can be a valuable way to regain a tiny part of your day in order to create some calm in the chaos of motherhood.

Remember, activities to entertain your baby don’t need to be hard work either, simple everyday items can become an amazing sensory or learning experience.

Hi, I'm Emma and I'm a mother to 5 beautiful children aged from 1 to 21 years old- life is hectic! I have learned so much along the way, not only from my own children but also through my professional life. In my positions as a Childminder and Teaching Assistant, I have studied Child Development and The Early Years Developing Practice. I wish to share all of this knowledge and help you with your own parenting journey!