And why it’s one of my favorite screen time activities!
Co-viewing allows you to diversify play, but also does promote development if you do it right.
Before we continue discussing co-viewing as a screen time activity, let’s review the current screen time recommendations from AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics).
- Under 18 months, no screens unless used for face-timing.
- Above 18 months to 2 years, minimal with co-viewing preferred.
- 2 years and above to 5 years, one hour a day.
- Over 5 years, parents decide and balance sleep, exercise, other household chores. (Check out this youtube episode where I discuss this and how to create common sense rules.)
So what is co-viewing or co-watching and why does it matter?
Co-viewing is you and your child watching a show together and interacting with what you are seeing.
Co-viewing matters because, it helps us see and hear what our children see and hear. Television and movies provide our children with information — some is factual and some is not. There are also images on the screen that can bring out strong feelings. So, when we watch TV or a movie with our children, we can ask questions to help them think about what they see and learn.
I ideally like to begin co-viewing once a child shows language development so it’s best to keep it after one year and start with small time frames and build up as you monitor their language development. When using screens, larger screens are preferred over small phones or tablets for visual health.
We can also help them make connections to what they learn at home and in school by co-viewing. For example, when you watch a show about animals, ask your children which animals are the same as those in a book that you have read – what sound does that animal make? If you have those stuffed animals in your home, have them grab it and make it a game! You can also ask your children to name letters sand things they are seeing, and it’s more likely to stick!
Co-viewing can also be an opportunity to teach lessons. If watching a show where somebody is hurt, you can take the opportunity to discuss that with them. Use the TV as a MEDIUM for play.
It’s also a time to cuddle, focus your attention together, and share the experience of seeing and hearing the same thing, just like story time. In a study of parents who applied the techniques of high-quality reading to watching videos, kids scored higher on comprehension and vocabulary measures than kids whose parents didn’t use the techniques.
Remember co-viewing does a few things—building social/emotional connection, language development, and also cognitive development (the 3 domains of development).
What shows can I choose from?
- Ideally choose a children’s programming that doesn’t annoy you. If you find it annoying, you’re less likely to want to engage.
- Choose a show you love that is family-friendly. If you follow me you know I love Wheel of Fortune. My goal is not to make RYAAN a puzzle solving prodigy. It’s to introduce the concept of letters in a show that’s fun for me too.
How do I co-view once I’ve chosen a show?
This will be useful at any age but don’t expect them to ramble off responses.
- Focus their attention. Help kids pick up story details by verbally pointing out specific parts of what you’re watching, let’s use Cocomelon for example. “Do you see the ducks? Can we count how many there are? What color are the ducks. You have a toy ducks, where is it? What sound does it make?”
- Ask questions about the whys and hows? Ask who, what, when, why, where, and how questions to get your kids to use new words and think through what they’ve seen. Say: “Who is that? Where do they live? Why are they doing what they’re doing?”
- Bring it back to real life. “Oh he fell. Remember when you hurt your knee. You were so brave. What do we do when we get a boo boo we take deep breaths.”
- Expand on what kids say. Rephrase information from the show or things your kids have said back to them, relate details to your own life, or add new information. These are all ways to improve conversation skills, teach kids about the world, and bolster your connection. Say: “Loud noises scared Daniel Tiger. I don’t like loud noises either. How do you feel when you hear loud noises?”
If you can’t co-view (I know this can happen), use these tips for your older verbal child!
- Ask questions after:
- What happened in the show?
- What did the character do? How did it make you feel?
- Why do you like the show?
- What was your favorite part?
I am far less worried about the hours of screen time than I am about HOW we are using it and if you are balancing with other developmentally enriching activities. For example, if you are co-viewing with a 19 month old for two hours, that’s much better than allowing them to watch it by themselves. Always try to prioritize non-screen time activities into your day as best as you can.