The prevalence of digital devices and increasing reliance on technology in all facets of life will continue to impact the youngest of children. Although quality content from media use can be beneficial to learning, problems arise when media use displaces physical activity, hands-on exploration and face-to-face social interaction in the real world. Too much screen time can also harm the amount and quality of sleep, which impedes learning and causes irritability in young children.
Parents play an important role in helping children navigate the media environment, just as they help them learn how to regulate their behavior offline. This article seeks to provide parents with recommendations to help them keep their children's media exposure to a healthy level.
How much screen time is appropriate?
“Early childhood is a period of rapid development and a time when family lifestyle patterns can be adapted to boost health gains,” said an official with the World Health Organization in a statement regarding new “screen time” guidelines.
In a new set of guidelines published on 24 Apr 2019 , the World Health Organization said that infants under 1 year old should not be exposed to electronic screens and that children between the ages of 2 and 4 should not have more than one hour of “sedentary screen time” each day. Limiting, and in some cases eliminating, screen time for children under the age of 5 will result in healthier adults.
This is in line with The American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation that children between the ages of 2 to 5 years should watch only one hour per day of approved programming.
How to keep your children’s screen time to a healthy level?
- Establish boundaries for screen time - Designate media-free times, such as during meals and car rides so the whole family can engage in conversation. Create media-free zones at home, such as bedrooms so it will not interfere with their sleep. Set a schedule to allow screen time, say 30 minutes of TV time in the evening before dinner or an hour of tablet time during weekends, which works best for younger kids who benefit from routines.
- Model healthy media use - Set a good example by putting your phone or tablet away when talking to them. Be fully present when you are with your children.
- Spend quality sedentary time with your children - Focus on activities that boost cognitive development, such as reading, completing puzzles and building with blocks/bricks. Embark on exploratory and stimulating hands on activities found in Squizzel Box such as science experiments, interactive games and arts & crafts.
- Encourage physical activity and face-to-face interaction with their friends by arranging playdates.
- Using technology to limit screen time - Use Apps to monitor and set usage limit, such as DinnerTime, Screentime. Parents can also turn on parental control feature in iPhones to limit usage.