My wife and I know the dangers of too much exposure to television and videos for young children, that is why we restrict the amount of time our kids spend watching them. But these days my wife is pregnant and I have to take more time watching our youngest who is only 18 months. For a short period of the day (not more than an hour total), I like to put her in my lap and let her watch cat videos and nursery rhyme songs on YouTube on my computer. But my wife doesn't want her doing even this, saying it negatively impacts her mind and senses.

Is my wife right or is she being too strict?

My daughter of course loves the videos and asks for me to put them whenever she finds me at the computer. Most of them I try to distract her away but sometimes I cave in.

  • 1
    Basically, your wife is right -- although it depends a little bit on whether you are interacting with her (e.g. singing along? saying "look at the kitty"?) or doing your own work in a different part of the monitor while she is entertained. I think there are a few potential duplicates of this question: Is it too dangerous for my 2 years old son to watch YouTube on the iPad for hours? may be the most direct, but possibly also At what age should a child be introduced to the Television?
    – Acire
    Dec 7, 2015 at 15:22
  • Thanks @Erica for that reply. I also saw that post "Is it too dangerous for my 2 years old son to watch YouTube on the iPad for hours?", but I think my case is slightly different because I am with my daughter when she is watching and I am limiting it to 15 minutes per sitting and an hour at most per day. Is this still too much? Should she not be allowed to watch any videos at all?
    – AbuMariam
    Dec 7, 2015 at 15:58
  • The key issue is whether she's getting simultaneous interaction (conversation) with you, or just sitting on your lap. I can't actually find the Q/A I'm thinking of that gets into the "why" of this in more detail -- I might be misremembering whether it's on here at all :) If not (and if nobody else gets to it first) I should have time to write an answer later.
    – Acire
    Dec 7, 2015 at 16:05
  • Be warned - on youtube you're never more than 2 clicks away from the purest trash that can be found on the internet. What started as my kids looking at videos of mickey mouse, peppa pig, etc turned into this plague of those idiotic surprise eggs. Just videos for miles of some greedy jerk's hands opening surprise eggs while talking. Once they see it, they can't unsee it and some day you look away for 10 seconds and by way of magic those damn eggs are on screen again! I say just ban youtube entirely. They don't provide anything you can't find in a book or outside
    – Kai Qing
    Dec 7, 2015 at 21:21
  • Also, to help reach a consensus with your wife, take a look at How can we find a compromise about screen time for our daughter?
    – Acire
    Dec 8, 2015 at 13:33

2 Answers 2


The American Association of Pediatrics is currently in the process of changing their recommendation for screen time for children. The policy currently is that screen time should be avoided before age 2, but they realize that the quality of screen time varies. Pediatricians have recognized the policy as outdated, since media is changing at such a rapid pace, and new research is showing differences between the kinds of screen time - TV, apps, Skype, ebooks, etc.

Today's children are spending an average of seven hours a day on entertainment media, including televisions, computers, phones and other electronic devices. -from the AAP

Clearly, your child isn't at the 7 hours per day average.

My gut feeling is that your wife is being too strict. You spend a lot of time interacting with your toddler without screens. As mentioned in the comments, the quality of the interaction you are having with her while watching videos matters. Whether you are looking at a book about cats or watching a video about cats, the page or the screen can serve as a medium for interacting.

Whether it "negatively impacts her mind and senses" is very difficult to prove. But no parent is perfect, you can't expect yourself to spend 100% of your time together interacting in the most stimulating and optimal way. 15 minutes of cat videos or nursery rhymes on youtube will likely have little or no effect on your child's brain...and she might even learn some nursery rhymes that you had forgotten since your childhood!

  • 1
    There's absolutely no evidence that watching video has any detrimental affect on senses or brain development - the same concerns have been banded about regarding TV, computers, games consoles for decades and all the evidence is that people are generally getting smarter.
    – Jon Story
    Dec 8, 2015 at 9:58
  • @JonStory Increased electronics usage does correlate to a number of concerns (obesity, attention span, behavioral problems, academic success, literacy, aggressive behavior, just to name a few). (citations 1, 2) The AAP wouldn't be making their recommendation without evidence, especially if there was an indication that screen time led to "people ... generally getting smarter."
    – Acire
    Dec 8, 2015 at 13:32
  • I'm not saying there's no behavioural/social implication, just that it doesn't affect senses (eyesight, hearing etc) nor brain development. Nobody here is suggesting 8 hours a day of iPad instead of regular interaction, but some screen time can be positive toward development
    – Jon Story
    Dec 8, 2015 at 13:35
  • Attention span, behavior, academic success, literacy, language acquisition, all could be related to brain development. I largely agree with you, I just don't think "absolutely no evidence" is merited :)
    – Acire
    Dec 8, 2015 at 13:39

I understand your wife's fears, but I actually agree with you. Some time on TV or laptop is OK. I think that the most important aspects of such entertainment (tv, youtube, tablet, computer) is the quality of the experience you provide your kid with.

Here are the rules we follow for Electronic Entertainment (EE) with our 2yo daughter:

  • all EE is moderated, we decide what can be watched/played
  • no mindless staring - we watch tv with our kid and talk about what happens there, commentate on it sometimes, then, after we've watched it, we reference it in our plays
  • EE is not a way to get something else done - it's meant to be just another way of spending time with our daughter (though we've actually violated this rule, we do try to stick to it)
  • EE limited to max 1h per day and we try to keep 20-30 minutes per day on average
  • some days are EE-less, when no tv is watched and no tablet games are played

I think that is is more important to teach a child that EE is not something bad, and it's ok to use it in moderate amounts, than forcing the though that it is bad and forbidding it, while the child obviously enjoys it. It'd be a huge contrast in child's mind and thus reduce your authority (i'm having trouble with words here, I'm not a native speaker). Most things are acceptable if they are used in moderation. The same, I think, works with EE. And if you don't teach your child early on to moderate the amounts, she may fall into EE even stronger later on. Consider this and talk with your wife about it.

As with all parenting, if you are consistent, your child will accept your actions regarding limitin EE time. No "one more please" beyond what you yourself decided should ever work. You can sometimes agree to it, but if you disagree, never change your mind.

I think that an hour per day for 18 month old is too much. Look at it like that: it's around 10% of her awake time. I would consider reducing the amount per day, and make sure to skip EE on some days altogether.

BTW: here's what 2yo our enjoys the most and we deemed appropriate for her age: Lego Duplo Forest/Circus apps on Android tablet and Bear in the Big Blue House on TV or Youtube.

2 years later follow up: our EE policy has worked reasonably well so far. Our daughter watches particular tv shows/songs and/or plays on tablet/phone reasonably frequently, but grudgingly accepts (=throws no tantrums) not playing/watching at all. We allow some tv time in the morning as we need that time for ourselves; she sometimes chooses not to watch tv as she prefers solo playing or coloring.

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