The Risks & Rewards of Screen Time for Young Kids
For both parents and educators, modern technology is a double-edged sword. Jenny Silverstone applauds access to exciting learning resources, but excessive screen time can also be addictive, and looks at striking a balance.
What amount of screen time is appropriate for young children? How can media best be utilized to benefit your child’s development? Answering these questions will help you gain control over how your young children use media and technology.
A Few Screen Time Statistics
With so much connection, parents may wonder if worrying about screen time is truly important. We believe it is. These statistics show just how much media our young children consume and how it may negatively impact them.
- In one study, children between the ages of 3-5 were found to consume an average of 2 hours of screen time per day. The recommended screen time for children in this age group is under one hour.
- This amount doubles in the 8-12 age range, with some pre-teens consuming over 6 hours of media every day.
- Children from 8 months to 8 years are also regularly exposed to an average of 4 hours of background media usage.
- TV and video viewing takes up over 70% of a child’s screen time.
Studies have found excessive media consumption can lead to childhood obesity, sleep problems, addictive tendencies, mental illnesses, and even a distorted understanding of normal human social behaviors.
When Should I Introduce My Kids to Media?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), parents should proactively plan how they want to introduce screen time into their child’s routine.
Each child is different, but the AAP generally recommends integrating very limited and supervised screen time when your child is approximately 18 months old.
Parents and guardians should screen all media ahead of time and co-view with their children. This means whenever your child uses a screen or device, you are there with them to talk about what they are seeing and use it as a time to teach and explain.
Whenever you decided to start using devices as part of your child’s downtime or playtime, the AAP stresses trying to find educational media produced especially with children in mind.
Age Appropriate Screen Activities
Your children will inevitably be exposed to media. Completely unplugging is not only difficult, but unwise. Children need to learn how to use today’s technology to succeed in the future. However, the key for parents and educators is to teach children how to become a master over technology, without technology becoming the master over them.
The AAP has created a number of guidelines on screen activities appropriate for children of a certain age. Following these guidelines can help you and your child consume media wisely.
- Under 18 Months: Video chatting with grandparents or other family members is the only activity recommended for children younger than 18 months. Parents should also be aware of any background media your child may be exposed to.
- 18-24 Months: Parents can start introducing high-quality, early-childhood programming into their toddler’s schedule. Viewing should be limited to approximately 30 minutes a day.
- 2-5 Years: Look for programming or apps that allow for a high level of interaction between the screen and your child. Viewing should be limited to 1 hour per day.
- 6 Years & Up: Children may begin using devices on their own. This is a good time to start teaching your children about typing, programming, and how to use the functions on a computer or device. Parents should continue to monitor how much time their child spends on a screen.
One way you can make sure you set appropriate boundaries for media usage is by designating screen-free times and areas. This can include while your child is doing homework, the early part of the day, and during dinner time.
Screen Time in School
Many educators use media and visuals to enhance their lesson plans and connect with students. However, it may become all too easy to use technology as the main vehicle for delivering information.
Educators should consider the following questions when allowing for screen time in the classroom:
Have I reviewed the media ahead of time and come up with face-to-face activities related to the media?
How constantly do I use media in my classroom?
Have I discussed my media plan with other educators and parents?
Have I researched what types of media is suggested by experts?
The balance struck
With appropriate planning at home in partnership with school, and by being mindful of AAP guidelines, it is indeed possible both to harness the benefits of digital media while mitigating the downside effects. It takes vigilance and thought – but the effort is worth it!
Jenny is the mother of two beautiful kids, a professional freelance writer and the editor of Mom Loves Best.
She is a huge proponent of cutting screentime, increasing playtime and letting kids just be kids again.
For more about the benefits of free play see this Infographic, from Neve Spicer:
Feature Image: Flickr – Kids on the iPad – Thijs Knaap