2014 Cyber trends: Apps to make screen time benefit your young child

Monday, January 20th, 2014

Cyber Safety for Kids and Families with Joanna and Jodie on 103.9TheFish Family Morning Show

Photo: IntelFreePress(Flickr)

Photo: IntelFreePress(Flickr)

One of the things trending with children and cyber technology is that very young children are experiencing increasingly longer periods of screen time, especially with devices.  This trend flies in the face of the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation in 2011 that children under two should have no screen time, which from my point of view is laudable but not necessarily a reasonable expectation for the modern parent.

To this point, a recent Common Sense Media study found that 38% of children under the age of two have used a mobile device for playing games, watching videos or other media-related purposes. While in 2011, only 10% had used such devices.  According to a Mashable report, Common Sense Media CEO Jim Steyer encourages parents to make screen time, learning time.


So the opposite of “no screen time for tots” is happening as we are living in a cyber-powered world and the devices have become an integral part of daily life –much like a pair of shoes.

In her book, Confessions of a Wonder Woman Wannabe, Jenny Lee Sulpizio admits to being a shutter fly and taking the device too far when she pulled out her smartphone to take a picture of her son bruised and bloodied from a fall – after she was assured he was okay. “I caught myself in the moment, and realized that perhaps I had taken my desire to capture the memories too far,” she said. “I have learned that being a mom sometimes requires us to step back when we are crazed in the moment, and extend grace upon ourselves when we make mistakes or feel like we have fallen short somehow.”

Sulpizio wrote this book to help moms like her who feel the pressure to be perfect in every way, with all of the conveniences of modern technology at our disposal.  My conversation with her will be featured in the upcoming 2014 Winter Edition of Banana Moments: Family Business Quarterly.

Suffice it to say, the modern parent will more than likely be handing over the device to a very young child no matter what pediatricians advise. The main thing from my perspective is that we are not leaving the child alone with devices.

There is no substitute for human contact in the early years, and the children are naturals with the technology. They will not have any difficulty downloading apps and accessing various web-enabled services, as indicated in a recent New York Times report about Apple iTunes settling a class action law suit because children were downloading apps and racking up charges without parents’ permission. Apple agreed to make refunds and is changing the way it authorizes payments for downloading apps.

What should screen time for tots look like?

And so the question remains then – what kinds of apps are the most appropriate? How can we make the screen time an educational experience for the tiny tots?

First of all, it cannot be stressed enough that parent engagement is critical. The most important lessons our children learn in the first years is how to bond with humans. So do not leave the infant alone with the device – although it will be tempting to do so because the devices are so engaging on their own. The main interaction she needs to experience is with you and/or her care giver.

Seek trusted resources.  Finding great apps for children, especially in the early developing years is serious business. And so we look to trusted resources. Common Sense Media offers a great listing, and the local librarians also provide youth and parenting services where you can identify the best apps and make it a field trip to the library – putting some sense of distance in the mind of your tiny tot between the apps at the library devices, and the screen in your own hand that you use every day.

Librarian picks for tiny tot apps

Tony Carmack is the Youth Services Librarian at the Rocklin Library in Placer County, Ca.

Tony Carmack is the Youth Services Librarian at the Rocklin Library in Placer County, Ca.

Tony Carmack is the Youth Services Librarian at the Rocklin Library, works with parents and children. He observes that Pottytime and Akzara are popular and get a lot of “buzz”.

Amanda Foulk at the Sacramento Library has compiled a list of recommended apps.

Both Foulk and Carmack recommend, Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App! For older children, Foulk suggest parents consult AASL for a list of recommended teaching apps.


Joanna Jullien (Photo: Christi Benz)

Joanna Jullien
(Photo: Christi Benz)

Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She a mother of two grown sons, the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM. Her new book, A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media is now available for PC and all eReader formats including Kindle, Nook, iPad.

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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna (jullien@surewest.net) and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.