Here are a few precautions you should take when letting your child have screen time
Avoid screen time at NIGHT. The light emitted by smartphones and tablets affects the way our body produces melatonin, a hormone responsible for “telling” the body to rest.
Utilize apps that show their own videos, created exclusively with the intent to educate and foster child development.
DO NOT utilize (or be very careful) with apps that allow individuals to upload their own videos to share with others. These types of apps as it is the case with YoutubeKids, cannot guarantee the safety of the content exposed to our kids. I’ve had a terrible experience with it when it seemed like the video was of one of his favorite characters, but it was actually this violent version of an edited episode. That’s when I deleted the app and downloaded ABC Mouse, which is very educational and contains only videos developed by teachers and child development specialists.
Always supervision your kids while screen time is happening. There is a ton of content available on the internet that wouldn’t be appropriate for our kids. So always be close and keep an eye!
Pros of screen time for kids
There’s a lot of buzz around screen time being bad for kids and we’ll get into the cons in a minute. But for now, let’s focus on the good it offers… because there are plenty of benefits to screen time as well. If there weren’t, I’m sure schools would have no screen time at all, right?
- Kids apps, when chosen correctly, can provide a ton of developmental-friendly content and activities that will help our children learn in fun, engaging ways. The educational benefits of screen time can be amazing when used just in the right amount.
- Screen time for your kids will give you a few minutes to breathe or relax when having a hard day. When dealing with stress or pressure, allowing them to have a few minutes of screen time can help you calm down so you’re in your best state to take care of them.
- Smartphones and tablets can be a great way to communicate with friends or family members who are traveling or live far away.
Cons of screen time (too-much-screen-time symptoms)
While I believe there are a ton of benefits to screen time when used properly, it’s undeniable that it can cause a vast array of negative effects when no limits are imposed. Here are a few:
- Risk of becoming obese. Experts say that watching TV while eating can diminish attention to satiety cues, making children eat more than they need. Early exposure to food advertisements can also contribute to that.
- Sleep problems: long hours of screen time could mean fewer minutes of sleep per night. Also, as mentioned before, the blue light emitted by most screens – such as smartphones and tablets – affects the way our body produces melatonin, which could result in insomnia.
- Developmental delays: children who are excessively exposed to screen time could have a delay in social/emotional, language and cognitive development. Violent content viewing can also contribute to poor behavior and social manners. So to help with that, make sure to choose educational content tailored to assist in child development.
- Less family interaction: kids or parents being on devices can rob from the family time that we all need and crave. Less of this interaction and affection can also result in behavioral issues later.
- Mental health: screen time research and studies have shown that kids could feel unimportant or even develop depression when parents look at their phones too much at mealtime or when playing with them.
Recommended average screen time by age
Kids younger than 18 to 24 months: Limit media use to video-chatting calls for the purpose of communicating with friends or family members.
Kids 18 to 24 months old: If parents or caregivers want to introduce media to kids, then it should be done together with the child. The recommendation is to avoid letting them have screen time by themselves.
Kids 2 to 5 years old: Screen time should be limited to one hour a day in high-quality media programming. If possible, view it with your kid and talk to them about what they’re seeing and help them understand and learn new things with what’s being watched.
The American Academy of Pediatrics also goes on to say that we shouldn’t feel pressured to expose our kids to screens too early for fear that they will fall behind. They say, kids “will figure them out quickly once they start using them at home or in school.”
Appropriate screen-time-or-use-by-age chart
Here’s a fun chart to make this info a little easier to understand:
Setting Healthy Screen Time Rules for the Whole Family
- No screens in the bedroom (in our home we don’t have TV in our bedroom or in the kids’ bedroom. My husband has asked me several times to get a TV for our bedroom, but I believe it’s better for our relationship if we don’t. I’ve been so firm on this idea that now he believes it too.)
- No screens during family meals, including the use of the phone by our kids or even ourselves. It can wait. This way, instead of ignoring each other at mealtime, the family can bond and connect.
- No screens allowed during family fun times.