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The only "screen time" my 2 year old son has had until now has been video calls, and looking at his own photos and videos with a parent on their phone.

We do not plan to use screen time as a break from parenting, or to distract him. We'll sit with him and talk about what we're seeing. It'll be another activity to do with him.

That said,

  1. What do we start with? I'd love to watch some short animation movies with him like Pixar's, but is it age appropriate? I find YouTube videos specifically aimed at kids very annoying, but perhaps they're what appeal most to toddlers due to repetition and such?

  2. How do we make sure we're not opening some flood gates? We're aiming at slowly building up to 1 hour per day, but will my son understand the time limit? How do we handle requests (or melt downs) for more screen time every time we watch something?

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    Re flood gates -- your plan sounds good -- do the activity together and limit the time. / I wrote a simple program for one of my children when he was two and he liked it. There was a multi-colored grid on the screen. When he clicked with the mouse on one of the cells, a square puzzle piece of a family photo would appear. He saw everybody else spending time with a computer and I wanted him to have something he could do and enjoy on a computer too. The picture was chosen at random from a folder of photos I had prepared. It was pretty easy to set up this "game." Jan 11 at 4:52
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    Commonsensemedia and Screenit are good ways to check ages for movies and TV. I think it will be a while before Pixar or any full-length movie will work well. / Re how to limit the time in practice -- you can use software that puts the computer to sleep after x number of minutes (15 is probably plenty at age 2). Jan 11 at 4:54
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    I (and my kids) loved the original Winnie the Pooh videos (The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh). They are so last century, though. If you're consistent - absolutely consistent - and don't use videos as rewards, there shouldn't be many melt downs.
    – anongoodnurse
    Jan 11 at 16:27
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    "I'd love to watch some short animation movies with him like Pixar's, but is it age appropriate?" No, IMHO, they are too scary. My kids agreed. "I find YouTube videos specifically aimed at kids very annoying..." I find them annoying too. That's part of the reason why we have successfully avoided them, and now we are way past them in age, so there. What is their value, anyhow? Any peer-reviewed studies to prove this "value"? So just say no to this "junk food for the mind". And don't get me started on video ads, made for kids or not - those are just plain Wrong. Jan 11 at 21:53

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Children will invariably be introduced to screens at some stage, but it's something that's really best delayed as long as possible. I can see no good reason to intentionally introduce a 2 year old to screens. If you're like most parents, screens will quickly become the bane of your existance, and you may rue the day when you first turned it on.

If your child is currently happy doing other things, I would strongly recommend you don't rock that boat, or poke that sleeping bear.

All the other wholesome activities you like to do with your toddler will quickly be forgotten. They will prefer the screen over everything else.

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TL;DR: First, ask yourself why you need the child to watch the screen, even a few minutes per week. If the answer is "I don't know", don't do it until the child asks for specific videos. Second, choose diverse age-appropriate high quality documentary and artsy non-documentary videos of the type you yourself like to watch, and observe the reaction of the child - this will show you what to watch next.


Congratulations on successfully preventing harmful screen time, so far. And welcome to the Club of First Do No Harm! Why are you "aiming at slowly building up to 1 hour per day"? This seems like (a) a highly magic number, and (b) a lot. What value do you even see in watching videos for such a young child? This will help you answer the "what to watch" question (below).


What to watch? Without knowing your child, we are just guessing here, but this will give you a few ideas (age group in years in parentheses):

  • Documentaries:
    • Nature (especially animals) (2+).
    • Non-war history (4+).
    • Travel (especially showing bright colors) (3+).
  • Arts:
    • Music concerts and videos, especially classical (2+).
    • Paintings and painters (especially showing bright colors) (3+).
    • Sculpture and sculptors (4+).
    • Architecture, buildings (4+).
    • Construction, big machines, Rube Goldberg machines, etc (2+).
    • Artsy animation. Examples: "Fantasia" by Disney, and many others (2+).
    • Award-winning animation. Examples: too many to list here. Search in YouTube or on the web for these terms (2+).
  • Science for kids.
    • Fun experiments. Examples: volcanoes, explosions, fire, etc. Too many to list here (3+).
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  • I am doing this CW style, which should take care of VTC this question, hopefully. Please feel free to jump in and edit/add/delete this Community Wiki answer! We don't have enough Community Wiki answers on this site - let's fix that! Jan 11 at 21:46
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    Love the frame challenge in the question (I know, I know...) Why do it intentionally? Screen time wasn't such a big no-no when I had toddlers, so there was "screen time": Sesame Street. But I was there, with them on my lap, talking about what we were seeing. I have some good memories about that. We got our first computer when my oldest was 4, because I wanted them to be computer literate (unlike me.) But, again, they were on my lap, or I was sitting next to them.
    – anongoodnurse
    Jan 12 at 15:38
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    @TimurShtatland - Thanks. You've tried the 2+ suggestions personally with at least one child? Just checking. / Out of curiosity, how do you feel about Mr Rogers and Elmo? I think Elmo is pitched at ages 2 - 4 because Elmo doesn't use subject pronouns. Jan 12 at 17:55
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    @aparente001 Yes, tried them all. YMMV, my mileage did anyways. :) Volcano videos were the biggest hit since early age. The child preferred the shorter videos. Also the child ignored the spoken word but loved explosions! The other child was not allowed videos until older age. That worked too! Simple and effective. Jan 12 at 18:04
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    @TimurShtatland - Elmo's high-pitched voice can be annoying in large doses but there's a lot of good stuff there. / I remember feeling shocked when Mr. Rogers looked straight at the camera and said, "You don't need to share your things if you don't wan to." It was a good parenting lesson for me. / Both programs have an element of repetition that can be soothing. Jan 12 at 18:16
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Here is my hands-on experience.

First of all, I introduced screen time (educational app ABCMouse) to my kid when he was 2 years old. At first, he did not enjoy it a lot. Then, his grandparents started to let him watch Youtube videos, which he found very interesting. However, because I found that there were too many inappropriate contents, I installed Youtube for Kids for him, and that was very fantastic idea. There were neither ads nor unsuitable videos. Please be noted that an adult should be co-watch with him to interact and teach him instead of passive watching.

Second, he tended to watch videos too long, which was beyond the time limit (roughly around 1 hour per day). Besides, he got into melt downs if anyone wanted to turn it off. To solve this problem, I purchased and used a parental app to control it (e.g. Kidslox). Thanks to this app, I set one-hour limit for him, and it would automatically disable all apps that we want to (such as Youtube, browsers...). Plus, you can manually switch on this mode when necessary. My 3-year-old dear son does not get upset at all.

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