Many people don’t leave the house or even the couch without their phone. We take our iPads and laptops on trips and plop down in front of the TV after a long day. Technology and being “tuned-in” has become so routine in our lives it’s easy to hand a child an iPad to pass the time as well.
Banner Children’s Speech Language Pathologist Ramya Kumar says this isn’t such a good idea, though. Instead, Kumar offered specific screen time recommendations for the children in your life.
“Interacting with people in the room, asking questions, responding to body language are all skills that are not learned when kids are plugged into a ‘one-sided’ show on an iPad or TV screen for extended periods of time,” said Kumar.
In fact, birth to two years of age is a critical time for brain development, according to Kumar. While there are many educational apps and shows to watch, children under two should only use video chatting apps. If you do let them watch shows, plan on co-viewing them with your child. By pointing to animals, asking questions and promoting responses, you can use these apps to teach motor and social skills.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children between the ages of 2 and 5 get no more than one hour of screen time a day. Children younger than two should view a screen only when an adult is able to co-view, talk and teach the subject. Excessive screen time has also been linked to poor sleep habits, decreased attention, behavioral problems and obesity.
Tips to minimize screen time
It can be difficult to control your child’s screen time, especially when they are at friend's house or at school.
Here are a few ways that you can limit screen time in your home:
- Schedule technology times. During dinner time, put the phones and tablets in the other room and focus on conversation and bonding with each other instead. In addition, after your child completes homework, allow 30 minutes of allotted screen time. Outside of those 30 minutes, keep the screens put away.
- Enroll children in after school activities. Sports teams, school plays and other extracurricular activities will move children away from a screen and into activities that exercise their motor and brain skills.
- Simple e-books. Choose e-books that don't have the “bells and whistles.” Take the time to read a book with your child to promote parent-child interaction while improving literacy.
- Remove the background noise. Turn off the TV and other devices when they are not in use. Background media can distract from conversation and play time.
Kumar encourages parents to go back to the basics. “Remember blocks and Legos? Those are great foundational toys that get children’s motor skills and brain development going,” says Kumar. “If you are shopping for a baby shower gift, keep in mind simpler toys that promote skills like conversation, turn-taking and role play. They may not be as flashy, but they will help promote healthy child development.”