Screen time guidelines for children are critical now that we’re in the digital age, screens are practically everywhere. With tablets, video games, phones, computers, TV, and laptops in every household, it’s hard to keep children from using them. To make it more complicated, there are thousands of applications that claim to support educational and social development.
On the other hand, experts and researchers suggest that too much screen time for children is bad. They say that too much and poor quality screen time exposes children to unhealthy food advertising and unhealthy lifestyles. And that it can cause the following:
- Sedentary behaviour
- Behavioural problems
- Irregular sleep schedules
- Shorter duration of sleep
- Loss of social skills
So where should you stand? How can you keep your kids healthy and happy at the same time?
The answer to your problem is screen time guidelines for children. With this guide, you can keep a healthy screen time balance because you are doing more than just counting minutes. Instead, you are adjusting your children’s screen time according to their childhood stage.
Screen Time Guidelines For Children
Toddlers (Ages 1 to 2)
Toddlers are advised to have little to no screen time. They need more physical and creative play with their parents and other people to develop their minds. Besides, children younger than 2 years old are more likely to learn from a live presentation. So it’s better not to expose them to any screen time before they turn 2.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children younger than 1 to 2 years old should not use any form of digital media except for occasional video chats. The Atlantic reported that video chatting creates a different response in children compared to pure television time. This is because babies and toddlers can understand that video chatting is a form of human interaction, that whomever they are talking with are responding to them in realtime.
However, make sure that video chats are also limited. Screen time through video chats can replace the kind of human interactions your kids need.
Preschoolers (Ages 3 to 4)
Preschoolers should only have a maximum of 1 hour of screen time per day. At this point in your children’s lives, they would have a liking for cartoon characters. They are also known to love video screens as well. Now, you can satisfy both by allowing them an hour of screen time but still make sure to do so in moderation.
Consider planning for screen time in advance and mindfully choose what you’re allowing them to watch or play. As much as possible, never use screen time out of desperation. For example, giving your phone to calm or distract your kids.
Also, encourage your children to engage with the characters they love offscreen. Most of the screen media content also have print versions. So try to look for books or comics that feature these characters. Aside from that, you can engage your kids in creative play and get them to draw, tell stories or let them act out their version of their favourite character’s adventures.
Elementary School (Ages 5 to 10)
Since your kids are now entering school, screen time should be the least of their priorities. You don’t want them to make a habit out of using their gadgets before doing their homework, do you? Thus, you should teach them how to balance screen time use. So at this age, only allow your children to have 1 to 1 and a half hours of screen time per day. And, instead of letting them use screens passively, let them use it for school research, do an animation project, or something that would encourage creative use.
Middle Schoolers (Ages 11 to 13)
Young children within this age range can enjoy up to 2 hours of screen time per day. Once they’re in middle school, they’ll have a clear understanding of the concept of balance. And, it is up to you as a parent to help them relate it with screen time. To help you with this, help them see that there should be trade-offs.
Have them write a list of all the activities they like, both on-screen and those that are not. Then help them see what they’ll be missing when they spend too much time on a certain video game. This way, you can gently help them understand the benefits of moderation.
Screen Time Guidelines For The Family
Now, for these screen time guidelines to be effective, you need your whole family to participate. With everyone at your household in it, your children won’t feel isolated. So, go out and watch movies at the cinemas or plan family movie nights. These are way better than your kids watching YouTube videos on their own.
Also, children still have a hard time understanding things. So, avoid apps and media with too many distracting contents, violence, and programming that are fast-paced. Eliminate ads on applications as well since young children can’t tell the difference between what is real and what are ads. Then, set media-free zones and times. For example, set a rule that there should be no screen time in the bedroom and that no one should use their devices during dinner.
As a parent, regularly talk to your children about how much media consumption they should have. And, apply them to your lifestyle as well. See, before you can expect your kids to understand why they need to moderate screen time use, you have to show them first. You should model the behaviour you want to see from your children. Thus, when you’re with your kids, remember to put your phone or tablet down and talk to them. Be engaging and be present because kids pick up exactly what you’re doing.
For many families, controlling your children’s screen time may seem impossible. This is why you should start by the time they are born instead of introducing screen time guidelines to say, teenagers. If you teach them at an early age, they’ll be able to manage their screen time use when they get older.