Screen Time Reality
Kids today are surrounded by digital devices. They were born into a digital age. We parents continually try to navigate this reality, determining the role tablets, computers, smart phones, and television should play in the lives of our children. The advice out there on screen time seems to contradict and even shift right before our eyes.
So is there a science to screen time? How can we know for sure what is best for our children now, and as they mature? What will help us make good decisions about television and screen time?
Up until a couple months ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended no screen time for children under 2 years of age. And for children over the age of 2, the recommendation was a maximum of 1-2 hours per day.
Since then, they’ve modified their recommendations slightly, especially for the use of digital devices for children under 2 years of age. The reason being that they’ve come to recognize the multipurpose use of digital devices and that some variations include valuable learning tools.
There are a couple main categories of screen time for young children:
- Passive: watching, reading, and listening
- Interactive: playing games
- Communicative: face time with grandparents
There is nothing wrong with any of these categories of use, in and of themselves, but as valuable as they can be, balance is still important for healthy overall development.
But there is no magic number that is the perfect amount for each child or each family. It is a reality that all families will go through periods of varying usage of digital devices depending on how it fits into the family’s shifting lifestyle. Again, balance is key.
These 5 tested screen time tips can help:
1. Recognize that media plays a limited role in learning
While it’s true that children can learn from educational content, they still learn best when experiencing their environment with a hands-on approach.
They need to use all their senses to problem solve and make a connection between their screen time and the real three-dimensional world in which they live. Consider valuable loose parts play time.
And communicate what they see on the screen with the daily activities around them or how it affects their feelings.
2. Remember you’re a role model
Our children see us using digital devices. We have computers, smart phones, tablets, television; we use it so they think they should have every right to use it too.
Try to limit you media use in front of your children; connect with them.
Now granted, this can be difficult when you work from home, but you can work around this by scheduling pockets of time to interact with your children much as you would on a job site through breaks with co-workers and/or meetings. Don’t just stare at the screen!
And view this as an opportunity to teach them online etiquette as well. Additionally, if your children are very young, engaging in back-and-forth two-way communication is critical for their language development.
3. Resist using as a pacifier
We’ve all used the tablet as a “quiet tool”. It’s very effective! But children need to learn from us other methods for remaining calm and quiet when the situation dictates it. Media should not be the only outlet for their boredom or the panacea for their emotions.
Pediatricians report an upsurge in usage of screen time at doctors visits to pacify children after vaccinations. This is a perfect example of resisting the urge to use it as a pacifier. What happened to a good old-fashioned hug and kiss from mom or dad to calm their fears?
Finally, know that using screen time within a couple hours of bedtime can find it more difficult to learn to fall asleep on their own. We don’t get the opportunity for lovely sleep time routines for long. Let’s use the time to build their love, sense of safety and security with soothing routines shared with mom and dad.
4. Restore media free zones
Speaking of times where media should be off limits – it’s good to establish our personal family guidelines as to when the entire family is media free. It encourages family bonding, better sleep, and healthier eating habits (if employed at the dinner table). You can see an example of our family’s Screen Time Rules by going to our Library through the link below.
5. Research so called learning apps
The American Acadamy of Pediatrics reported that there are over 80k apps labeled as educational, but little research has been done to conclude their true quality or value. There is no proven oversight there.
So do your research. Read reviews. Interact with your children as they play to learn and make sure there is genuine learning involved. Additionally, making screen time a shared experience with your children can minimize potential negative effects for children under 3 years of age and maximize their learning. You can also reference my article of 12 researched and reviewed pre-k educational apps.
Here is a list of some additional resources you may appreciate:
- 5 Myths About Young Children and Screen Media Infographic
- Apps for Sale: How to Choose and Use Apps to Maximize Your Young Child’s Learning
P.S. What Are Your Family’s Screen Time Rules?