Children and Media Time

Follow Us

Recent Posts

A Visit from Marta Donahoe

A Visit from Marta Donahoe By Heather Gray   Teacher preparation, training, accreditation and continued professional development for the educator are at the foundation of

Read More »

Children and Media Time

By Lynette Goss

Children and the effects of media time is a hot topic these days.  Plenty of opinion, commercialism and actual scientific research are all over the internet. There are tablets being offered to many schools’ kindergarteners, numerous applications for tablets taunting their educational benefits, and even applications that claim they are Montessori. It can be hard to wade through it all and find factual information on what is best for children.  This article hopes to narrow the search for you and offer some facts on the subject.


You may ask yourself, “Why don’t Montessori schools, including Walnut Farm, not offer tablets or other media to young children?” Montessori referred to the years from 0-6 as the first plane of development. Children in the first plane are in what Montessori described as the “absorbent mind” phase.  Researchers are now able to literally look at our brains and support what Montessori knew over 100 years ago; children who are 0-6 years of age need hands-on, three dimensional experiences. They need to spend time with caring adults, look at adult caregivers faces, see their expressions, and hear and see their lips move to learn their native tongue.


Research on the subject of media time and young children in the first plane of development show some interesting results:

  • The more time infants, toddlers, and preschoolers spend with screens, the less time they spend engaged in two activities essential to healthy development and learning: creative play and interactions with caring adults.
  • Even media tools designed for learning have detrimental effects on speech and language acquisition.
  • A study done with 30 to 36 month olds found that children learn best from human interaction, some from interactive games on a screen, and less from watching the television. (Lauricella, Pempek, Barr, Calvert, 2010)


The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association, and the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education recommend the following guidelines for screen time in early care and early education settings:

  • In early care and education settings, media (television [TV], video, and DVD) viewing and computer use should not be permitted for children younger than two years.
  • For children two years and older in early care and early education settings, total media time should be limited to not more than 30 minutes once a week, and for educational or physical activity use only.
  • During meal or snack time, TV, video, or DVD viewing should not be allowed.
  • Computer use should be limited to no more than 15-minute increments except for homework and for children who require and consistently use assistive and adaptive computer technology.
  • Parents/guardians should be informed if screen media are used in the early care and education program.
  • Any screen media used should be free of advertising and brand placement. TV programs, DVD, and computer games should be reviewed and evaluated before participation of the children to ensure that advertising and brand placement are not present.


In the elementary Montessori school setting (6-12), what Montessori called the second plane of development, we begin offering some media to the children. After they learn how to use books for research, we introduce the internet.  After the class has been read a book, they may watch the movie to compare and contrast. They are now ready to begin the process of thinking abstractly.

Here is some research on children 6-12 years of age in the second plane of development:

  • Kim John Payne, psychologist and author of Simplicity Parenting, recommends no media until a child reaches seven years of age, when their brains are better wired to handle the two-dimensional abstractness of technology.
  • Today’s children ages 8-18 are less able to read social cues, express empathy, or participate in deep conversation (Kaiser, 2010).
  • Additionally, children who grew up with media in their home lack the ability to focus for extended periods of time on one task, or follow a linear thought without interruption (Dretzin & Rushkoff, 2010)


I encourage you to be a scientist and observe your child in the Maria Montessori fashion.  Watch them while they are in front of the screen, observe their reactions.  What is their body doing? What are their eyes doing? Observe how they act when it is time to turn the media off. I also encourage you to look deeply into this subject, review scholarly articles regarding what children need developmentally and how media effects children’s development.

Once you decide to either eliminate or set more boundaries on media time, here are some ideas of things to do instead:

0 to 3:

At home: No Media! Lots of songs and finger plays, shelves where they can easily choose their own work, a place in the kitchen where they can “work” beside you, books for them to look at on their own and that you can repeatedly read to them.  Most of the books should have real pictures with the real names of objects. Walks, lots of time outside and lots of time with you.

In the car: Play “I Spy” with colors, objects, sounds.  Sing songs with them, count with them, listen to some music, let them just look out the window, listen to audio books.

3 to 6:  Most of the above with the exception of allowing some media.  Keep it very limited.  We recommend none during the school week.  See if they can tell you how to get home and give you directions in the car. Puzzles, board games, coloring books, mazes, lots of books with factual information and pictures. Time outside and with you!

6 to 12: Media should still be monitored and limited. Find the amount of time that is enough to give them opportunities without becoming angry zombies!  Help them learn to navigate the internet, explore their interests, and tell the difference between actual fact and opinion.

At home: No media during meals. This is a valuable time for you to connect with your children and for them to see you set an example. Include them in the conversation of why you limit media in your home.  Have an art shelf or art tub full of glue, markers, construction paper, popsicle sticks, toilet paper rolls, etc. A dress-up box, a basic tool box with hammer, screwdriver, nails, screws, and access to wood and/or old electronics that they can take apart. Increase to adding saws and simple power tools as they get older.  Lots of time outside to explore and daydream.  Books about different cultures, interests. Time outside and time with you exploring their interests!

In the car: Have conversations: ask them “what if” questions, ask their opinion, tell them about your childhood, make up stories together, let them read a book, listen to a favorite family podcast together or audio books.

Parenting is probably the hardest thing we will ever do in our lives. Anything worthwhile is. We are here to help and support you!    If you are looking for more articles and support to set better limits on media time, reach out to your child’s classroom teacher, Ms. Heather or me.  I have attached a link to a TED Talk that you may find informative:   And a good website for more information is: