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Kids & Screen Time: The 5 C's Questions to Ask for Infants

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From birth to 18 months, infants are building secure relationships with parents and caregivers. They're also beginning to understand and express early language and quickly learning to move their bodies so they can explore the world around them.

Emotionally, infants learn to self-soothe, fall asleep without depending on being held, enjoy playing back and forth with others and learn new things.

These are important tasks that media shouldn't crowd out.

What are the 5 C's?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Center of Excellence on Social Media and Youth Mental Health developed the 5 C's as an age-by-age guide to parenting around media and building healthy digital habits as your child grows. See "Kids & Screens: How to Use the 5 C's of Media Guidance."

The 5 C's questions for parents of infants

Ask yourself these questions:

1. Child

Who is your child and how do they react to media?

Each infant is unique—how fussy they get with changes to their routine, or how easily they self-soothe. This influences their relationship with you and with media.

From a young age, try to be aware of your child's emotional and learning capabilities so you are aware of how they may react to certain types of media.

2. Content

What is worth their attention?

FaceTime, Skype, or other video chats can be beneficial to help build relationships between your child and other loved ones. Infants can't otherwise learn much from screens at this age, so media such as cartoons or nursery rhyme videos are not recommended.

If you do put on any media for your infant, brief use of educational programs like PBS KIDS or Sesame Street, which are created with an understanding of child development, is a good place to start.

AVOID prolonged TV or YouTube viewing.

3. Calm

How do they calm their emotions or go to sleep?

Fussy babies are more likely to be given media such as TV or videos to calm down, but this gets in the way of helping babies learn to self-soothe. Self-soothing is an important tool-it is the ability to calm down by themselves.

Try to not get in the habit of using media to stop your baby from crying, to get them to sleep, or to distract them while eating so screens do not become the sole source of comfort or calmness. Find other ways to help infants calm down. Every caregiver questions their abilities during tough times. But these can be great opportunities to build confidence in your parenting!

4. Crowding Out

What does media get in the way of?

Screen media—whether in the background, on a parent's mobile device or on a tablet in front of a baby—displaces the important building blocks of brain development. This includes speaking to your baby or others around them, back-and-forth play, singing, reading together, or building predictable daily routines that help your child feel safe and secure.

Be mindful of how you use your smartphone or TV around your child and give yourself screen-free times too, to focus on your own well-being and your baby.

5. Communication

How can you talk about media to raise a media savvy, responsible child?

Infants may not be able to talk yet, but they are always watching and listening to you. If media is on in your home, watch together and talk about what you are seeing. Use it as a launching pad for teaching or playing. Songs and stories in your own voice are going to make more of a positive impact on your child than any video or cartoon.

To download a PDF version of these tips, tap here.

Make a media plan for the whole family (parents too!)

As the parents of an infant, you might find the Family Media Plan useful. It can help you think about setting up boundaries around your own media use, as your child watches and may mimic your behavior. Managing media use well is important for interacting with your infant and getting enough sleep. A pediatrician or therapist can help you find ways other than media to help calm your child down.

More information

Editor's note: The 5 C's were inspired and built upon the "3 C's advice about kids and screens" developed years ago by education expert and author Lisa Guernsey.

Funding for the AAP Center of Excellence on Social Media and Youth Mental Health was made possible by Grant No. SM087180 from SAMHSA of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, SAMHSA/HHS or the U.S. Government.

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American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Center of Excellence on Social Media and Youth Mental Health (Copyright © 2024)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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