Screen Time

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What is screen time?

Screen time is the amount of time spent using any device with a screen such as a phone, computer, tablet, video games or television. Screen time is sedentary activity, meaning you are being physically inactive while sitting down.

Most of a baby’s brain development happens in the first 2 years of life. That’s why it’s so important for babies and toddlers to explore their environment and experience many sights, sounds, tastes, and textures. Interacting and playing with others helps children learn about the world around them.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting the amount of time that babies, toddlers and children spend in front of a screen.

How much is too much?

  • Children younger than 18 months:
    • Avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting.
  • Children 18 to 24 months:
    • Can start to enjoy some screen time with a parent or caregiver.
    • Choose high-quality programming. Watch it with your children to help them understand what they’re seeing, this is how toddlers learn best.
    • Letting children use media by themselves should be avoided.
  • Children 2 to 5 years:
    • Limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs.
    • Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.

Not all screen time is created equal. For example, you and your baby playing an interactive color or shape game on a tablet or watching high-quality educational programming together is good screen time. Sitting your toddler down in front of the TV to watch your favorite shows with you is an example of bad screen time.

Why limit screen time?

  • Sleep better. Kids who use screens less often and outside of bedrooms sleep longer and fall asleep earlier at night. Even babies sleep better with less screen time.
  • Gain the right amount of weight. Less screen time can mean less snacking, less exposure to food advertising, and more physical activity. Children often eat unhealthy food when watching television and TV advertising impacts children’s food choices as most ads targeted at children are for candy, cereal and fast food.
  • Develop learning and social skills. Less screen time often means more interaction with parents and family, which helps children learn to speak, solve problems and pay attention.

Tips to help limit screen time:

  • Don’t feel pressure to introduce screens early to your child.
  • Limit your own use of screens around your kids.
  • Plan for outings by bringing books or toys to entertain your child, instead of screens.
  • Use radio or music for background noise instead of the TV.
  • Keep screens out of bedrooms.
  • Turn off screens at least 1 hour before bedtime.
  • Use books or cuddles to soothe your child instead of a device.
  • Schedule screen-free times such as playtime and meals.

Tips for when you do allow screen time:

In today’s world it can be tough to keep babies and toddlers away from all the TVs, tablets, computers, smartphones, and gaming systems they’ll see.

Screens are everywhere. Your little one is probably going to spend some time looking at one, so make sure his or her screen time is as productive as possible.

The same parenting rules apply to screen time as to anything else — set a good example, establish limits, and talk with your child about it.

To make your toddler’s screen time more productive:

  • Be with young kids during screen time and interact with them. That can mean playing an educational game with your child or talking about something you see together in an age-appropriate TV show or video. This will also allow you to make sure games, apps, videos, movies and tv shows are providing a positive, healthy and safe message.
  • Research games and apps before getting them for your child. There are thousands of apps and games that claim to be educational, but not all of them are. Search online to see which ones educators and doctors consider the best.
  • Schedule plenty of non-screen time into your child’s day. Unstructured playtime is important for building creativity, so young children should have time to play away from screens every day. Family meals and bedtimes are also important times to put the screens away and interact with your child. 

Use screen time as a chance to interact with your child and teach lessons about the world. Don’t let your child spend time alone just staring at a screen.

Source: KidsHealth from Nemours, American Academy of Pediatrics, Utah WIC & Medline Plus

This post was last updated on April 7th, 2021 at 10:31 PM

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