Research continues to confirm what most parents already know: Too much screen can have a negative influence on your child’s development.1 However, with screens almost everywhere, monitoring your child’s screen time can be very difficult.2
The problems with too much screen time
Too much screen time can affect your child in the following ways:3
- Reduces their ability to read human emotions and learn social skills
- Curbs their ability to control impulses: A bit of boredom teaches young children how to cope with frustration and control their impulses
- Diverts them from activities that help increase their brainpower, like playing and interacting with other kids
- Affects their attention span and focus
- Decreases the time they spend outside playing
Excess screen time has also been linked to obesity, irregular sleep pattern and behavioural problems in children.2
Screen time rules for your child
The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages media use by toddlers younger than age two and recommends limiting young children's screen time.1,4
Babies (< 18 months)
Toddlers (18 to 24 months)
Young children (2 to 5 years)
Making screen time part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle
Limiting kids’ screen time is a big job. The key is to balance screen time with other healthy behaviours like physical activity, reading and interacting with people. Following tips may help you ensure that your child uses screens in a balanced and healthy way.2,5,6,7
Rules about screen use:
You can establish some family rules as to
- Where is it okay for your child to use screens – for instance, only in living room and not in the bedroom.
- When your child can use screens – for instance, no screen time during meals and one hour before bedtime.
- How your child can use screens – for instance, to play a puzzle game, but not to watch videos.
- Active screen time session: Encourage your child to do something active like stretching while watching a show. Challenge your child to see who can do the most jumps during an advertisement. Pick video games that require physical activity- it's a good way to teach good sportsmanship and gaming etiquette to your child.
- Set limits and encourage playtime: Set reasonable limits and make playtime a daily priority. Encourage your child to play outdoors. Even simple things like dancing, catching and throwing balls are counted as physical activity.
- Watch with your child: Viewing a show with your child encourages bonding and gives you a chance to share your own life experiences.
- Do your homework: Preview programs, games and apps to determine what’s appropriate for your child. If possible, watch, play or use them with your child.
- Be a good role model: Children are great mimics and hence limit your own media use. For instance,
- Switch off your phone during mealtimes
- Turn the TV off when you’ve finished watching a program
- Spend time reading and doing physical activity
- Avoid checking your phone when you’re with your child and give them your full attention
- American Cancer Society. Cutting Down on Kids’ Screen Time [Internet]. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/cutting-down-on-kids-screen-time.html. Accessed on Mar 3, 2020.
- Mayo Clinic. Screen time and children: How to guide your child [Internet]. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/s.... Accessed on Mar 3, 2020.
- UNICEF Parenting. Babies need humans, not screens [Internet]. Available at: https://www.unicef.org/parenting/child-development/babies-screen-time. Accessed on Mar 3, 2020.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. American Academy of Pediatrics Announces New Recommendations for Children’s Media Use [Internet]. Available at: https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/American-Ac.... Accessed on Mar 3, 2020.
- Preschooler screen time: tips for balance [Internet]. Available at: https://raisingchildren.net.au/toddlers/play-learning/screen-time-media/.... Accessed on Mar 3, 2020.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. Children and Media Tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics [Internet]. Available at: https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/news-features-and.... Accessed on Mar 3, 2020.
- Screen time: babies and toddlers [Internet]. Available at: https://raisingchildren.net.au/babies/play-learning/media-technology/hea.... Accessed on Mar 3, 2020.