Tackling screen time
Here are tips and recommendations from the pros.
Article Author: Vikki Mioduszewski
There is no escaping it; we live in a digital era with new technology coming out every day. While today’s tech-savvy parent might have the latest and greatest device loaded with apps, how and when should our children be allowed access to the same technology? Are all screens and content created equal? Let’s turn to the experts to find out.
We asked Michelle McDonald, PhD, a child psychologist with the Wolfson Children's Center for Behavioral Health, how much TV is too much TV? She reported, "Infants learn best through physical exploration of their environment and interaction with their caregivers." In addition, babies are not able to process or understand the complex shapes, sounds, and symbols projected on a screen. "For these young children," Dr. McDonald said, "television exposure has little to no benefit. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no intentional television watching for this age group and I find that recommendation well-founded."
Once your infant enters toddlerhood, they are more likely to benefit from all that the screen has to offer. Still, according to Dr. McDonald, "The best learning occurs when information is supported and reinforced by a caregiver. The parent or caregiver should sit with the child and help him understand and interpret what he is seeing." Mark Bedard, DO, a pediatrician with Orange Park Pediatrics in Argyle Forest, agreed, adding, "Toddlers, or children younger than the age of five, should be limited to no more than one hour of screen time a day."
Luckily, parents have several options for top quality, developmentally appropriate media for their little ones. There are apps and television programs that support vocabulary development, social skills, and emotional education, which are among a few of the benefits. But Dr. Bedard clarified, "Screen time should be a family- or adult-supervised event. I would recommend the parent watching and interacting with the child to enhance the learning the child gets out of the show."
When it comes to apps and television programs, the experts agree: no screen time for infants, and no more than one hour of high-quality programs or games for children five and under. "As doctors, we look at screen time as a whole," said Dr. Bedard. "That includes tablets, iPhones, television, computers, video games, etc." Does that mean we need to ignore FaceTime calls from Grandma or Skype calls while Mom or Dad is away on business?
"Video chatting with relatives is a great way to stay connected!" Dr. McDonald explained, "Not only does it encourage bonding with loved-ones who might not be available in the child's daily life, but it can also expose children to new vocabulary and promotes the use of modern technology." However, just as with the use of apps or games or television, video chatting is best when supervised by an adult caregiver.
Remember, screen time should be kept on the sidelines through infancy, and remain a group sport with your toddlers and preschoolers. Video chatting is a great way for kids to have supervised interactions with loved ones.