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Too Much of a Good Thing: Taming the Screen Time Beast

"Screen Time".....the newest most widely used phrase in parenting these days. As with most things in life, there are both positive and negative things to consider when it comes to screen time. These devices can provide endless learning opportunities that are made available right at our children's fingertips while at the very same time bring about potentially negative outcomes when left unattended or not monitored. We will look at the definition of screen time, how much screen time your child should be getting, how to set screen time guidelines and most importantly how to stay involved in your children's screen time decisions.

What is Screen Time?

Screen time is the TOTAL amount of time spent:

  • Watching TV

  • On a computer

  • Playing Video Games

  • Using a Tablet, Smartphone, or other electronic device

Did you know that according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, toddlers exposed to higher amounts of screen time are more likely to have higher rates of speech and language delay? For every 30 minute increase in daily handheld screen time, there is a 49% increased risk of expressive language delay (the ability to verbally express or say what is in their mind). High amounts of screen time have also been linked to obesity, behavioral problems and decreased social skills in our kids.

How Much Screen Time Should My Child Get?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:

  • Birth - 18 months: avoid all screen time other than video chatting. This includes phones, tablets, TVs and computers.

  • 18 months - 2 years: introduce children to high quality children's media. Watch it with them and help them understand what they are seeing. It is advised to avoid letting children at this age have screen time by themselves.

  • 2 - 5 years: up to 1 hour DAILY of high-quality content designed for kids. Try to watch together but more importantly find other activities for you to do together (i.e., reading, talking, playing, etc.)

  • School age: 1-2 hours DAILY

How do I set Screen Time Guidelines:

It is important to have device-free zones in the home as well as family rules for screens.

  • Do not allow devices in bedrooms. This could lead to inappropriate content being viewed unintentionally as well as disrupting your child's sleep patterns or pre-sleep routines.

  • Turn all screens off at least 1 hour before bedtime. This allows time for your child's body to settle down and his eyes and brain to become less stimulated before bed.

  • If your child already struggles settling down at night, make your home device free starting after dinner. This could be time spent playing a board game, reading together, catching up on chores or just spending time together as a family without the glare of the handheld devices.

  • Keep the TV off unless someone is actively watching it. Young children have a more difficult time focusing on any task when the extra noise and flashing lights are on in the background.

Stay Involved: As parents, it's our job to not just blindly hand over devices to our children. As much as we'd like to think that everything online is good, we know the reality is that even the most innocent looking tool online can lead our children down a dangerous path. We should monitor their screen time just as cautiously as we monitor who they are spending their time with. Research games and apps to make sure they are appropriate for your child. When your child is watching videos, watch with them and engage in conversation about what they are seeing. This provides language input and communicative interaction. Encourage hobbies for your children outside of screen time. Coloring, playing with toys, playing with friends and playing outside are all great options.

The takeaway here is that children learn best from their experiences in the real world. These include interactions with you and interactions with others.

***Prioritize intentional interactions!

From our homes to yours,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


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