Technology and screens are in our cars, our pockets, our purses, and on our wrists. While we benefit a lot from it, it definitely must also consider the impact of its use on our children.
The American Academy of Pediatrics makes the following screen time recommendations for toddlers:
- Under 18 months: No screen time except for video chatting with loved ones.
- 18–24 months: A small amount, at most, of high-quality programming, if you choose.
- 2–5 years: A maximum of 1 hour per day. Watch programs together rather than have young children (of any age) use screens while alone.
While there is a lot of educational content online, parents should be mindful that excessive technology use can have adverse effects on children.
- Too much screen time can delay speech and language development. Studies show that higher screen use is associated with poorer language skills in toddlers. This can lead to later learning challenges.
- Children make sense of their world by experiencing words and concepts in real life. Screens can show our toddlers lots of things, but they aren’t able to engage their senses of taste, touch, and smell.
- Screen time affects social-emotional development. When we give a toddler a screen to calm down or because they are upset, this can actually make it harder for them to learn how to express their feelings in a healthy way and manage their emotions.
Focus on regulating the amount of time and type of content your children are exposed to. It’s still alright for your kids to use tech devices for games or watching, but consider these options to limit or reduce their screen time:
- Keep the TV off as your toddler plays. Studies have shown that parents and caregivers speak fewer words when the TV is on—even in the background.
- Provide “old-fashioned” or no-tech toys. Blocks, balls, cars, dolls, puzzles, and even household items (e.g., boxes, pots/ pans) are best—especially as these types of toys can promote creativity, imagination, problem-solving skills, and physical activity in children.
- Minimize multitasking. If you are speaking to your toddler, put your phone down to allow yourself to make eye contact and listen fully – without peeking at your phone. Being able to respond to your child in real time allows you to establish and fortify the parent-child interaction, whether you have a toddler or a teen.
- Device-free meals. Encourage Device-free meals for your family. Put the phones and tablets away. If you have a smart watch, then take it off for some focused family time.
While, zero screen time for your toddler is best, it’s not always realistic. Be sure to minimize the amount of time you use your screens in your child’s presence.