More and more smart parents are realizing that the amount of time their children are spending looking at a screen - on a television, computer, or phone - can get out of hand quickly. So how much time should your kids be spending on a screen? A lot of that depends on your child's age and your family.
When to avoid screen time
Is there ever a time when your child should skip screen time? Absolutely! If you child is under 2 years old, avoid letting your child spend time watching TV or using a tablet or phone. It may be difficult, but less screen time for your baby means more time bonding with you.
Avoiding screen time at this age also lets your child's brain develop normally - without becoming overstimulated or distracted. For parents, this means putting down your own phone or screen when you're interacting with your baby so you can bond together.
For kids aged 2-5
Once your child hits 2, they can start spending more time with screens. But aim to keep the amount of time your toddler spends with a screen to about an hour a day. Fortunately, during the toddler and preschool years, most kids are content to have creative play time that doesn't involve a screen. Limit the content of your child's television programs to more educational programs and skip advertisements wherever possible - because it can be hard for your child at this age to figure out what's real and what isn't.
A great screen time activity your toddler may love at this age is video chatting with loved ones who live far away. It'll help your child develop healthy social skills and strengthen relationships.
Always remember, screens shouldn't be a babysitter for your child. It's always better to read a book or talk to your child instead of plopping them down in front of a television or tablet.
For kids aged 6 and older, the amount of screen time that's healthy depends on their personality and your family. Teach your older kids that being productive with their time should always be more important than being entertained by screens. Is your older child getting enough sleep, social interaction, and exercise? If not, limit screen time until they are.
It's hard to quantify an appropriate amount of screen time for older kids because their needs vary so widely. Instead, help your children understand that certain things are more important than screen time. You might have to assign them some responsibility as they grow to help them earn the time they spend on a screen. And as your children grow older, they need you to warn them about sexting, cyber-bullying, online predators, television advertisements, and more.
Don't be afraid to limit screen time with your older children.
Think quality AND quantity
Whether your child is 2 or 12, examine their screen time choices for quality AND quantity. Is your toddler watching high-quality educational television? If not, adjust their choices. There are so many screen time options available today. Some programs and apps are relevant and helpful for developing children and some aren't.
Tips for toddler screen time
Want to make your toddler's screen time more productive? These tips will help you make better use of the time your toddler spends with screens:
- Prioritize non-screen time play. Give your child plenty of time to play throughout the day. Unplugged time lets your child engage in creative play. Put away screens during meals and bedtime.
- Do screen time together with your toddler. Use screen time as an opportunity to interact together. Play an educational game or talk about the movies or TV shows you watch together.
- Spend time researching the shows, games, or apps your child uses. Prioritize the educational games and apps that best fit your child's interests.
Whether you have a toddler or a teenager, managing their daily screen time is an important skill you and they need to learn. From the very early years on, your child will learn from you how to handle their time watching television, playing games, or browsing social media. Setting proper boundaries will help your child, your family, and you, be healthier, smarter, and happier.