Quality screen time

"We all know that screen time in excess can be harmful to infants and toddlers, and that it isn’t great for older children, either. And I would guess that there aren’t too many parents out there that would want their children struggle with things like obesity, ADHD or cognitive and language development.” 

This comment is from Mindy Wood, writing for MamaNatural.com.  

Screen time — isn’t it the worst? I simply don’t understand these parents who feel like it’s OK to sacrifice their child’s well-being and impair their healthy development with passive sessions in front of the “idiot box.” Whatever happened to good old-fashioned play in the great outdoors? What is this world coming to? 

LOL, just kidding! 

I totally let my kids have “screen time.” I know it’s “bad,” or at least not ideal. I’ve read about what the studies have shown. But let me share a little secret with you: I just don’t care that much. 

Please note that I said I don’t care “that much.” I care; sometimes I wish I cared more. But when it comes down to it, I have bigger concerns. 

For example, every day before I put my kindergartener on the bus, I make sure to give her a big hug. If there’s any stress about forgotten homework packets or permission slips, I try to defuse it. 

The nice, euphemistic way to explain why I do this is because I think it’s important to try to live every day as if it’s your last. (But seriously, if I really lived every day as if it was my last, I’d never pay my Xcel Energy bill.) 

The real reason I try to ensure a happy sendoff is because every day this thought floats through my head: “Will this be the day my 6-year-old is gunned down in her classroom?” 

Until this kind of thought is indicative of hysterical anxiety and not, in fact, a rational reaction to the state our country is in, I will continue to keep my hand-wringing over screen time to a minimum. 

On that note, let me share some of my screen time recommendations. Since I read somewhere that it’s a good idea to watch this stuff with your kids — to better answer their questions and make sure a given show isn’t just a 30-minute toy ad — I’m going to suggest only things I’ve been able to endure watching. 

Therefore, all the standard “good” shows for toddlers will not be on my list. A quick Google search will let you know it’s OK for them to watch Daniel Tiger, Dinosaur Train and the Octonauts. 


The Aquabats Super Show 

The Aquabats (above) are a pop-punk band by day and superhero team by night. It’s a silly show, with crappy special effects, ridiculous monsters and goofy crime-fighting plot lines. Although it’s definitely one of those shows that’s going for the “parent market,” my own little kids love it. In fact, my daughter instructed me to grow out my hair so I could dress up as EagleBones Falconhawk for a proposed family Halloween costume theme. 


This super-weird British children’s show features five brightly colored, gumdrop-shaped creatures. Created by the people who brought us Teletubbies, Boohbah is ostensibly aimed at getting little kids to exercise. The odd little blob creatures appear on screen at least twice in each episode to perform a repetitive “dance.” This show doesn’t get a lot of love online, but I think it’s strangely fascinating. Also worth a try: In the Night Garden. 


Can’t stand the thought of enduring yet another viewing of Moana? Ensure your child’s acceptance into Macalester College by showing him this hypnotic, wordless 1982 experimental film by Godfrey Reggio, featuring mesmerizing footage of natural landscapes giving way to forces of modernization with an ever-undulating score by Philip Glass. 

What’s your favorite show to actually watch with your kids? Comment on this article.

Shannon Keough lives in St. Paul with her husband and two children. Send questions or comments to skeough@mnparent.com.