The debate surrounding how much time a child should spend in front of a screen is a controversial topic discussed by everyone from concerned parents to healthcare professionals and even in Congress.
With so much digital media available to kids today, it seems there are more ways to get online than ever before. Whether it’s through handheld tablets, a smart television or a family computer, most households have easy access to modern technology.
Thanks to the busy nature of 21st Century life, it can be all too tempting to use screens as a distraction, allowing parents to get work done. A recent survey by BabyCenter.com for instance found that 4 out of 5 preschoolers are watching online content, with 85 percent of moms allowing their kids to play with their phone.
But for how long is it healthy for a young child to use these electronic devices?
The American Academy of Pediatrics has released guidelines that state digital media exposure for children of all ages should be ‘limited’.
The AAP has also highlighted in recent years how defining exactly what consists of ‘screen time’ is increasingly difficult in a world dominated by 24/7 digital media.
As a result, these guidelines suggested by the AAP identify screen time as ‘time spent using digital media for entertainment purposes’. So, use of digital media for homework for instance would not be included.
The Academy has claimed that a limit of one hour per day should be in place for kids of 2 to 5 years of age, while infants aged 18 months and younger should not be exposed to any form of digital media.
For children aged 6 and older, it is the responsibility of parents and carers to determine any restrictions for time spent using a screen and to also monitor the types of digital media being used by their child.
Screen Time Should Not Exceed One Hour Per Day
For preschool aged children, the AAP therefore recommends that children can be introduced to screens gradually but this time spent on digital technology should not exceed one hour per day.
Only ‘high quality' television programs aimed at preschoolers should be viewed, as these don’t contain advertisements that can ‘over stimulate’ children.
Activities spent away from technology should instead be prioritized. These can include sports, music and art – it’s vital for kids’ health to play, explore and make real world friendships.
The Academy has however endorsed the use of face-to-face interactive media. Including kids in video conversations on Skype with family and friends for example can help to promote ‘healthy development’ in children and expand their social skills.
Lead By Example
It’s also important to set a healthy example to your kids. Teach your children about the benefits of using technology as a tool to create, connect with others and learn new skills and information all the while prioritizing productive time.
Discussing advertisements for products marketed towards young children can also be helpful. Make sure your kid understands that products such as fast food and sugary cereals aren’t healthy choices.
Ultimately, establish with your family designated times of the day to enjoy technology and take care to be conscious of turning off screens at night.
Remember to spend time as a family away from digital media too. Conversation and face-to-face interaction with your child is crucial for their social development and can even promote better sleep.
Learn more about online safety for preschool kids here.
What are your tips for managing your kids’ screen time? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.