Screen Time

How much screen time is ok? How do you monitor? What are some alternatives?

New developments in phones, tablets, apps seem to happen constantly and can have both positive and negative effects. Perhaps you’re even finding yourself getting consumed by screen mania. It’s hard to know when to introduce and draw the line when it comes to your child and screen time. When does using a harmless iPad turn into an unhealthy habit? The following are some recommendations offered by the American Academy of Pediatrics as well as a few guidelines and suggestions shared by fellow parents/caregivers, and educators.

Introduction to Screens

Video chatting with family and loved ones for children under 18 months can be fun, educational, and offer some social and emotional awareness and vocabulary developments.

Set Time Limits

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not starting with screen time, other than video chatting until 18 months. Thereafter, it is recommended that co-viewing of high quality content and programming for no more than one hour per day up to five years old.

Look for Withdrawal

There is a real withdrawal effect when a screen is taken away from a child. Be mindful of such cues in your own child; if they are getting angry and can’t accept the removal of their screen, it may be time to put some time limits in place and encourage alternative “low-tech” toys. Build with blocks, move objects through time and space, and practice active listening skills with some read-aloud story time.

Model Behavior

Set and model screen time boundaries for your child: no screens or devices during dinner or driving, or when company is over, unless it’s something that can be shared.

Create Media Free Zones

Since bedrooms should be a quiet area to encourage good sleep hygiene, this might be a good choice for a media free zone. Bedrooms can also be a private space. Allowing phones with cameras in bedrooms lets just about anyone come into a child’s bedroom and compromise privacy. Allowing conversations and video calls to happen in private places sets parents and their kids up for potential future conflicts, especially as children become more socially engaged with their peers.

Use the Screen to Combat the Screen Time

Using apps or platforms such as the Netflix “fireplace for your home” may offer a way for families to use the screen to fight the desire for screen time. With a television screen in the background displaying a roaring fire, you can direct more attention on each other. Get cozy and play a simple game that does not involve using a screen, like a deck of questions that everyone gets a chance to answer and listens to each other.

Keep in mind, the screen time habits you encourage in your toddler could have a lasting effect into their teenage and adult years. Too much screen time can mean there is not enough time during the day to play, study, talk, or sleep, which can have negative effect on development and quality of life.