We are surrounded by screens these days. They are literally everywhere we go. Restaurants have multiple flat screen televisions all over the walls, we’ve got two or three in our own homes, add to that all the laptops and tablets and the smart phones we can’t live without. It starts to add up!
What amount of screen time is actually safe for our children?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following:
- Birth through 18 months
Avoid all screen media—phones, tablets, TVs and computers. (It’s OK to video chat with grandparents and far-away friends.)
- 18 months to 2 years
It is OK to introduce young children to high-quality children’s media if you watch it with them and help them understand what they’re seeing.
- 2 to 5 years
Limit screen use to one hour a day of high-quality programs designed for children. Watch with your children; explain what they’re seeing and how it applies to the world around them.
That seems pretty limited right? Well there are some pretty good reasons for such strict limitations.
Learning is connected to the feeling of being loved and supported.
Firstly, your kiddo learns best by his real experiences in the world. He learns by exploring the world with his whole body and using all of his senses. Playing outdoors in a sprinkler or seeing a giraffe at the zoo is no comparison to seeing the same activity on a screen. Once your child does begin watching high-quality programming such as Sesame Street or Baby Einstein, help him connect what he has seen on the screen to what he sees and does in the real world. Point out and name objects that he’s seen on screen.
Secondly, your child learns the most by her interactions with you. Learning is connected to the feeling of being loved and supported. The conversations you have and the games you play are more enriching than anything on television or on mobile apps—even those that are designed for learning. While taking a walk with your child you may say, “There’s a doggie. What sound does a doggie make?” You can even relate it back to another moment, “Remember when we saw a doggie at Grandma’s house?”
As a parent, you are your child’s main role model so it’s important for you to have healthy media habits too!
Thirdly, if you are going to allow your child to watch television, watch with him and ask questions about what he is seeing on screen. This way he is discovering the world with you and you are helping to explain everything he is learning. This reinforces the emotional bond between the two of you and solidifies what he is learning.
Lastly, as a parent, you are your child’s main role model so it’s important for you to have healthy media habits too! If your head is always buried in your cell phone or your attention is always fixated on the television, you may be depriving your child of much needed attention. If she is repeatedly neglected in favor of digital media she may develop behavior issues later on. The AAP recommends designating “digital free” time together, such as phones off at the dinner table or having digital free spaces in the home such as bedrooms.
The AAP suggests creating a Family Media Plan that can help establish healthy habits that can last throughout your child’s life. If we set up good habits for them now they will carry those habits into their lives.
I’m a parent too. I have two little rugrats whom I love dearly but drive me crazy every now and then. I also have a big job that requires me to be glued to my cell phone and laptop at times. However, as parents we have to remember that the most important job is raising our kids and if that means I have to discipline myself to set a good example for them, then you bet I’m gonna do it!