Digital Download: If we're going to look at a screen, let's make it educational!

In our past posts we've talked about how to limit the amount of screen time in your home, but let's face it, we're human and inundated with screens each and every day. So if our children are going to be exposed to screen time, how can we make it more worthwhile, and more educational?

Be active! For many parents, when they think of screen time, they think of zombie like stares as a child looks ahead at a screen. We call this passive screen time, and it is a big no-no here at Sound! If the screen is on, make it active!

Active screen time is when a parent or caregiver communicates with the child, generating two-way communication, and encouraging language use, while watching a program or playing on a device. Through active use, you can turn screen time into a language enriching activity, much like a toy.

So how do you do it? While watching the screen, comment, narrate, draw attention, and use expectant remarks (e.g. wow, oh no, uh oh) to use the screen as a tool to enhance language exposure, and demonstrate that 2-way communication can occur even with devices present. 

Reinforcers. Be cautious of the times in which you provide screen time to your child. It's important to note the times in which a television show, iPad or iPhone is used, as you are reinforcing behaviors in your child each time you provide them with the (very motivating) screen time. If you hand a device to a screaming or upset child as a way to comfort the child, this reinforces the behavior of screaming, and can often lead to tantrum behaviors.

We recommend that screen time is only provided to the child when they are calm and not upset/crying. Try to use screen time not as a distraction, but as a reward for calm/positive behaviors. We always encourage families to keep toys, books or even a snack, that the child doesn't see often as a way to assist with distractions, for the unwanted tantrum, and leave the phone/screen for times of reward!


Jody Vaynshtok

Jody is a California-licensed speech language pathologist with eight years of industry and clinical experience. She has worked with both adult and pediatric populations during her time at private practice, birth-to-three, and hospital facilities. She is experienced in the assessment and treatment of a variety of communication and cognitive disorders. In addition, Jody has a passion for working with adults looking to achieve clearer communication. Jody received her BS in Speech and Hearing Sciences and MS in Medical Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Washington. She was a part of the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford’s cleft and craniofacial clinic participating in the multidisciplinary assessment and treatment of children born with craniofacial abnormalities. She holds a staff position at UCSF and is the lead speech language pathologist for the department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery’s Hearing Loss Clinic. When she's not busy having fun with her clients Jody enjoys spending time with her husband, Anton, friends and family. And if she's not headed out somewhere fun for dinner, you might find her at Bar Method working out!