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The importance of limiting screen time for your toddler

by , 26th Nov 2014

We’ve grown so used to having our devices in reach that when the time comes to put them down we often feel as if we miss something important. However, what should we do about it when children come to our lives? Should we expose them to mobile devices? And if yes, what is the optimal screen time for your toddler and children under the age of 2?

It is easy to give a child a tablet, preloaded with “age-appropriate” material and games, but whether we should do that is another question. Products with screens and time spent using them are things that aren’t going to go away, but there are definitely ways to make interacting with screens – which includes smartphones, tablets, computers, and even television – a more positive, beneficial experience.

It is easy to give a child a tablet, preloaded with “age-appropriate” material and games, but whether we should do that is another question. Products with screens and time spent using them are things that aren’t going to go away, but there are definitely ways to make interacting with screens – which includes smartphones, tablets, computers, and even television – a more positive, beneficial experience.

girls-smartphone

How young is too young?

While you may want to give your toddler a tablet to keep him occupied when you are trying to get dinner ready, your child’s age is something to consider. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):

Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age of 2. A child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.

Interacting with your child is crucial to its successful development, so giving it a tablet and letting it bang (or swipe) away may not be what is best. However, an interactive game on a tablet would provide increased stimulation over something much more passive, like a watching a television show.

kid-laptop

Limit screen time for your toddler to 60 mins per day

One of the physicians who played a role in crafting the AAP’s official statement has altered his viewpoint, however. Earlier in 2014, Dimitri A. Christakis published a viewpoint in JAMA Pediatrics, in which he states that:

Judicious use of interactive media is acceptable for children younger than the age of 2.

So we’ve established that not all screens are the same – interactive games and apps are superior to passive screen time activities. But even if one of the AAP’s co-authors has changed his stance regarding the age when children should be exposed to screens, that doesn’t mean they should spend a lot of time in front of them.

In fact, Dr. Christakis believes that toddlers and children under the age of 2 should only be using screens for 30 to 60 minutes a day. Screen time should not, of course, replace real human interaction, no matter what the age of the child.

kids-laptop

Not all screen time is bad, but there should be limits

Even for older children, it is important to limit screen time. In fact, it might not be a bad idea to give yourself a break once in a while too! Having areas of the house or family events be screen or device free is a good way to start. Take family dinnertime, for example: more family bonding and personal interaction will occur if everyone leaves his or her devices in the other room, away from the dinner table.

Researchers are still working to determine what effects apps have on a child’s development, and they are constantly working with new data, so only time will tell what the definitive answer will be to the question of screen time. Until then, do what is best for you and your child, keeping in mind that while not all screen time is bad, everyone agrees that there should be limits.

family-board-games

Don’t forget about more traditional activities, like reading together or playing a board game as a family, not to mention outdoor activities, such as taking a walk or playing catch. Time when your family can be together should not be taken for granted and it is even better if it is something both you and your kids look forward to sharing!

 

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