Post submitted by Christine Kyriakakos Martin, Author/Early Childhood Educator
The digital age has given new generations of parents something extra to worry about: How much screen time is too much?
Physicians, teachers, and psychologists generally agree that spending inordinate amounts of time immersed in computers, smartphones or social media can negatively impact a child’s developing mind and body. A recent screen time study published in JAMA Pediatrics found “a measurable association between how much young children are using screens and how well they are meeting their developmental milestones.”
Researchers found that higher levels of screen time at two and three years predict poorer child outcomes at three and five years, respectively.
Other studies have also associated digital overuse with teen depression, and the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued guidelines suggesting daily limits on screen time for different age groups.
FOUR KEYS TO MANAGING SCREEN TIME
1. Distinguish screen time from play time. Play is a fundamental learning tool for young children, but screens are not toys. The idea here is, that when screen time is limited and separated from other types of play, parents show their children the importance of setting boundaries, using their imaginations and being active.
2. Get involved. Parents who engage with their children about on-screen activities can help them increase their communication skills and teach them how to navigate digital media. Parents can talk with their children about the videos they watch and games they play like they would discuss characters and plotlines in a book. When there is parental engagement like this, a child’s vocabulary and literacy skills develop and family communication gets stronger.
3. Make mealtimes screen-free. Eliminate screens from the meal table, including when you’re out at a restaurant. While it can be tempting to pack the iPads to have some adult conversation while you’re out to eat, doing this doesn’t teach your children about manners, properly engaging in conversation, or being mindful of other people.
4. Set a good example. It will be harder for a child to disengage from screens if his or her parents are consistently looking down at their own phones or tablets. Your children learn from your example. If they see you spending a lot of time with your face in front of a screen, they’ll also want to use technology at the same time. Try your best to save your time on social media for your lunch break, during nap time, or after your children have gone to bed.
Learning how to use screens, verbally communicate or socially interact will have a positive impact on language skills, relationships, and overall health. Young children want and need to spend time with their parents and learn through play.
About Christine Kyriakakos Martin
Christine Kyriakakos Martin (www.youvegotthisparenting. com) is the author of You’ve Got This! Keys To Effective Parenting For The Early Years. An early education expert and consultant, Martin is the founder and owner of Sunshine Preschool in Hopkinton, Mass. She has spoken on child-development topics at national education conventions and colleges.