How much screen time is too much for young children is a topic often discussed and debated among parents. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding digital media other than video chatting for infants.
For toddlers 18 to 24 months of age, parents or caregivers can introduce small amounts of screen time, but they should watch digital media with the child to encourage interaction and enhance learning experiences. Preschoolers ages 2 to 5 should only watch one hour of high-quality programming per day.
Choose Quality Media for Your Child
The types of media your child interacts with make a difference between good and bad screen time. When choosing media for your child consider the 3 C’s outlined by Screen Sense – child, content and context. Think about the child’s age, interests and attention span to gauge whether a program, app or video game is a good choice for them. Consider the media content and if the topics are age appropriate and will engage your child in a meaningful way.
In addition, think about the context in which the child is learning from the media. Is the child sitting in a room alone mindlessly staring at the screen or watching the program with a parent. Young children learn best when an adult is with them to help them understand and apply the content on the screen.
Manage Your Family’s Screen Time
Not all screen time is bad and when done right, media can support your child’s learning. Here are some tips for managing screen time to ensure it is an effective learning experience.
- Make a screen time plan that works for your family and sets limits for media use. This helps your child to understand the rules and manage their expectations. Reinforcing these limits will also help you encourage your child to spend time doing other activities such as unstructured play, reading books aloud or crafts.
- Research quality media. Public television stations and media outlets such as PBS KIDS and Sesame Workshop can be trusted to provide content that is engaging and creates meaningful learning experiences.
- Interact with your child during screen time. Play a video game and encourage sportsmanship or watch Sesame Street together to reiterate learning topics. For example, if learning to count on Sesame Street, you can practice counting at the dinner table that evening.
- Be a good role model. Limit your own screen time when with your child and turn off the TV if no one is watching it.