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Screen Time by Lisa Guernsey

Screen Time

How Electronic Media From Baby Videos to Educational Software Affects Your Young Child

"...what she found flies in the face of conventional wisdom..."

As a mother, Lisa Guernsey wondered about the influence of television on her two young daughters. As a reporter, she resolved to find out. What she first encountered was tired advice, sensationalized research claims, and a rather draconian mandate from the American Academy of Pediatrics: no TV at all before the age of two. But like many parents, she wanted straight answers and realistic advice, so she kept digging: she visited infant-perception labs and child development centers around the country. She interviewed scores of parents, psychologists, cognitive scientists, and media researchers, as well as programming executives at Noggin, Disney, Nickelodeon, Sesame Workshop, and PBS. Much of what she found flies in the face of conventional wisdom. Instead of worrying endlessly about the amount of time children spend with media, Guernsey concludes that new parents will be best served by focusing on “the three C’s”: content, context, and the individual child.

Advocating a new approach to screen time, Guernsey focuses on infants to five-year-olds and goes beyond the headlines to explore what exactly is “educational” about educational media. She examines how play and language development are affected by background and foreground television and how to choose videos that are age-appropriate. She explains how to avoid the hype of “brain stimulation” and focus instead on social relationships and the building blocks of language and literacy. Along the way, Guernsey highlights independent research on shows ranging from Dora the Explorer to Dragon Tales, and distills some surprising new findings in the field of child development.

Parents, teachers, and psychologists will be relieved to learn positive approaches to using videos with young children and will be empowered to make their own informed choices.

Originally published as Into the Minds of Babes: How Screen Time Affects Children From Birth to Age 5.

Errata: A technical issue led to printing errors in the new epilogue, which begins on page 253. The full corrected epilogue can be downloaded here (PDF) or from the PDF at the right.


"I was so interested in what the author was telling me that I felt breathless as I read..." -- Reading for Sanity

"...fascinating and terrific new book," -- New York Post

"balanced, lucid ...a worthwhile book." -- Wall Street Journal

"attacks established myths, alleviates paranoia and finds a common-sense solution..." -- St. Petersburgh SunTimes

"A gift to parents..." --Television Quarterly

"Research can be confusing and contradictory yet this book is anything but." -- Shelley Pasnik, Director, Center for Children and Technology

"A wonderfully accessible book." -- Ellen Wartella, Professor of Psychology, Communication and Human Development, Northwestern University

"Brilliantly researched and engagingly written," -- Neil Izenberg, M.D., FAAP, Pediatrician and Editor-in-Chief,

"Research can be confusing and contradictory yet this book is anything but. Distilling what we know about young children and media while sharing her experiences as a parent, Guernsey is an able guide." -- Shelley Pasnik, Director, Center for Children and Technology

"Reasoned and thorough...this is the book we've been waiting for!"-- David W. Kleeman, President, American Center for Children and Media

"Guernsey's exploration of the world of electronic media and its positive and negative impact on young children is one we will all benefit from."-- Robert Kesten, Executive Director, Center for SCREEN-TIME Awareness

"Written with passion and precision, humor and humility, Into the Minds of Babes is a calming and reassuring new resource for parents."-- Claire Green, President, Parents' Choice Foundation

"This journey into the best research on the impact of media on young children will serve as an essential guide to all those who care about kids."-- Ellen Galinsky, President, Families and Work Institute

"...a thoroughly researched, sensibly balanced and beautifully written account of the growing role children's media play in contemporary society. It is a must read for those who wish to understand the rich and subtle ways media are influencing younger and younger children's lives every day."--Michael H. Levine, PhD, Executive Director, The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop

Download PDFs

Due to a printing problem, several paragraphs were omitted from the epilogue in the first edition of the paperback. Here's the corrected version and a bonus: A one-pager with websites that review TV, movies and videogames for kids.

To Order

Screen Time is now available in stores. It can also be ordered as a print book or ebook at, Barnes and Noble, and other online book shops.

Originally published in hardcover as Into the Minds of Babes.

Want a signed copy?

Autographed books are available at Hooray for Books!, an excellent independent children's bookstore in Alexandria, Va.

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