According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children in the United States spend an average of 7 hours each day viewing media through screened devices like televisions, computers, phones, and tablets. This statistic has prompted numerous studies on the effects of screen time on young children, especially those younger than five years old.
Research from the Mayo Clinic has found connections between excessive screen time and under-developed fine motor skills, obesity, behavioral issues, academic problems, and impaired attention skills, as well as a decreased play time among children. Less time for play puts development at risk because creative play puts all areas of development into practice (social, emotional, language, cognitive, and motor). Play is the medium through which children demonstrate their critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
Recommendations for the appropriate use of technology:
Create Screen-Free Zones.
Do not allow children to have televisions or personal devices in their bedrooms, where they can have unsupervised access. Eliminate background TV.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that children under two years old should not spend time in front of screens. For older children, it recommends no more than 2 hours per day of screen time.
Developmentally Appropriate Media Use. Limit media use to high-quality, intentional, and purposeful activities. When used appropriately, technology and media use can enhance children’s cognitive and social abilities. Interactions with technology and media should be playful and support creativity, exploration, pretend play, active play, and outdoor activities (National Association for the Education of Young Children).
Avoid Using Screen Time as a Punishment or Reward.
Making screen time a punishment or reward only enhances the draw of screen-time.
Help your child find other activities for entertainment, such as reading, playing a sport, engaging in physical activity outside, helping with cooking, playing a board game, and creating arts and crafts.
Balance is key when considering screen time for our children. Foster and teach this balance to children not only by limiting their screen time, but also by being a role model of appropriate and balanced media use.
Shawna Mehlberg is the Early Childhood Director at Divine Savior Academy. For more information about appropriate screen time use, visit aap.org.