Screen Time For Infants and Toddlers
It might be a common sight to find mothers feeding their babies in front of television once the baby learns to sit. And if the baby is hyperactive and is always on his feet, the necessity of keeping the kid sit at a place to finish his meal is supported by screen time. Not just television, kids these days have been exposed to digital media so much like iPads and mobile phones that making them sit at a place for few minutes becomes difficult without placing a gadget in their hands.
But how much screen time is healthy for your kid? You have your kids around when you come back home after a long day at work and switch on your television or laptop. It is almost inevitable to completely cut off technology from kids. But there should be a rule and protocol set in the family to limit the screen time in kids for a healthy brain development and nurture that emotional connection between parents and the child.
According to a survey conducted by a leading UK based tech website- “over a third of parents (35 percent) said they use tech gadgets to entertain their children because they are convenient, and nearly a quarter (23 percent) because they want their children to be tech-savvy. A 2015 survey of 1,000 British mothers of children aged 2 to 12 found that 85 percent of mums admit to using technology to keep the kids occupied while they get on with other activities. The AO.com survey pointed to children spending on average around 17 hours a week in front of a screen – almost double the 8.8 weekly hours spent playing outside.” This not just hinders brain development in kids but also creates a disconnect between the parents and the child due to lessened face-face interaction, cause distress in kids and also hamper the sleep pattern in them.
Certainly, overexposure of children to the screen has its own perils. One of my colleagues had once mentioned about a behavioural issue in his child. The child was 4 years of age and still did not speak and always kept to himself. Not that the kid has any issues physically, but it took them long to strike a conversation with him. It was after a series of long sessions with a child psychologist and neurologists it was revealed that the kid was exposed to too much media and screen. The parents were asked to refrain from watching television, using a laptop, mobile phones or social media in any gadget when they are home with the kid around.
At first, the idea seemed quite bizarre to me since I never realised that screen time would have such a huge impact on a kid. People around me, parents and new mothers always handed their kid a tablet or mobile phone to keep them engaged while they carried on with their work. And of course, the kids learnt quite easily, browsing through apps and clicking selfies and was an interesting topic of discussion at the gatherings- “Kids are so smart these days!” But the pressing concern is, are these gadgets really helping the kid get smarter of doing an irreversible damage to their brains?
Let’s have a look at how much screen time is okay for your kid and few tips to check screen time in kids.
Infants 12 months or younger
Often mothers find it easy to involve their kids in digital media to carry out the daily chores and other work to be done. When you are breastfeeding your kid, it is necessary for you to develop that connection and have an eye-eye contact to create that bonding between you and your baby. Fathers can involve in activities like reading the kid from a book or set a playtime for the kid which will enhance their cognitive and motor skills. Do not let the TV be the babysitter for your child. You can, however, introduce your toddler to digital media, not during the meals but for an hour before bedtime with videos that are educational and encourage conversation.
Screen Time For Infants and Toddlers
Children of 1-3 years of age
Children of this age can be introduced to digital media but only for an hour and under strict parental supervision. Cartoons are a big no-no at this stage. Instead, interactive media like Skype and Facetime and video chats with relatives promote healthy development in kids. However, there are certain checks that need to be done before you introduce them to digital media:
- Apps that encourage creativity. You can use an app that allows them to draw on a digital screen or match colours and shapes of objects, spot differences and the like.
- Make sure that the videos you play for your child and the shows you make them watch are of good quality and do not affect their eyes.
- Supervise the videos that they watch. The ones that have no content of violence or make some bad act seem good.
- Check the age appropriateness of the app and video that you introduce your child to. It would be great if you can watch the video and use the app yourself first before showing it to the little one.
- Introduce lessons in play- make them get familiarized with folktales or fables imparting life lessons and good stories.
- You may also want to introduce them to videos of nursery rhymes and make them sing along with you.
- Make sure you include activities to be taken up after the watch time to keep them engaged and limit the screen time to an hour.
The American Academy of Pediatrics in October 2016, published a makeshift report on banning children younger than 2 years of age away from social media to a new view that even toddlers can be exposed to screen time as “no screens during meals and for 1 hour before bedtime,” with specific guidance to parents and caretakers to opt for high-quality videos that will be easy for them to enact when the child is away from the screen. The key is to use technology with responsibility for kids of all ages.
AAP and other paediatrics do not just tell you to hand your kid the iPad or laptop but recommend you to assist and mentor the child the entire time they are watching a screen to make the best use of the digital media on learning.
Research shows that in the current generation of massive use of technology, digital media can be used as a tool for learning and development and can be helpful in initiating conversation and developing curiosity in children. Of-course there needs some checks to be done by the parents themselves before they introduce their child to the app or digital media and keep in mind the quality of the video being shared.
In its latest notice, AAP, instead of recommending a direct ban on television for kids, have asked the doctors to guide the parents on “family media use,” which would help the families’ design the media use. For example, it recommends video chat to be allowed for a child of any age with distant family members and relatives.
The one hour cap does not necessarily include the videos your child may watch or app he uses as long as they are educational and helps in their brain and overall development. For example, your kid might watch a program designed for kids on science lessons and use an app that catalyzes their creativity-like a doodling app and then later goes to bed watching another educational video.
The time is surely not limited to one hour a day but with the inclusion of intermittent physical activity throughout the day coupled with videos that helps in the development of the child’s outlook, the media game can be easily tackled. To make the process easier on parents, AAP has developed an online tool for parents to help them understand the importance of media exposure to children and also make changes in their household to incorporate the recommendations.
It’s crucial for parents to remember the three C’s while picking up children’s media- Content, Context and the Child.
Technology is something we cannot keep our kids away from. I take my daughter to a few classes and most of the teachers recommend some video or the other on YouTube. Sometimes these videos can help kids learn and especially children with developmental delays can benefit from them. Supervision and regularization are the key when it comes to screen time in kids.
Screen Time For Infants and Toddlers
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