Screen time and children

Screen time and children: How to guide your child

By Mayo Clinic Staff
 

With screens virtually everywhere, controlling a child's screen time can be challenging. To complicate matters, some screen time can be educational for children as well as support their social development. So how do you manage your child's screen time? Here's a primer on guiding your child's use of screens and media.

 

The problems with screens

 

Unstructured playtime is more valuable for a young child's developing brain than is electronic media. Children younger than age 2 are more likely to learn and remember information from a live presentation than they are from a video.

By age 2, children can benefit from some types of screen time, such as programming with music, movement and stories. By watching together, you can help your child understand what he or she is seeing and apply it in real life. However, passive screen time shouldn't replace reading, playing or problem-solving.

 

As your child grows, keep in mind that too much or poor quality screen time has been linked to:

Developing screen time rules

 

The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages media use, except for video chatting, by children younger than 18 to 24 months. If you introduce digital media to children ages 18 to 24 months, make sure it's high quality and avoid solo media use. For children ages 2 to 5, limit screen time to one hour a day of high-quality programming.

 

As your child grows, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work as well. You'll need to decide how much media to let your child use each day and what's appropriate.

Consider applying the same rules to your child's real and virtual environments. In both, play with your child, teach kindness, be involved, and know your child's friends and what your child does with them. Also, keep in mind that the quality of the media your child is exposed to is more important than the type of technology or amount of time spent.

To ensure quality screen time:

Also, avoid fast-paced programming, which young children have a hard time understanding, apps with a lot of distracting content, and violent media. Eliminate advertising on apps, since young children have trouble telling the difference between ads and factual information.

Encouraging digital literacy

 

At some point your child will be exposed to content that you haven't approved and devices without internet filters. Talk to your child about the situations that could occur and the behavior you expect.

Encourage your child to think critically about what they see on their screens. Ask your child to consider whether everything on the internet is accurate. Does your child know how to tell if a website is trustworthy? Help your child understand that media are made by humans with points of view. Explain that many types of technology collect data to send users ads or to make money.

 

Setting limits for older children

 

Set reasonable limits for your child's screen time, especially if your child's use of screens is hindering involvement in other activities. Consider these tips:

 

Teaching appropriate behavior

 

Online relationships and social media have become a major part of adolescent life. Experts suggest that it's OK for your teen to be a part of these worlds — as long as he or she understands appropriate behavior. Explain what's allowed and what's not, such as sexting, cyberbullying and sharing personal information online. Teach your child not to send or share anything online that he or she would not want the entire world to see for eternity. No matter how smart or mature you feel your child is, monitor his or her online and social media behavior. Your child is bound to make mistakes using media. Talk to your child and help him or her learn from them.

 

Also, set an example. Consider that your child is watching you for cues on when it's OK to use screens and how to use them.

Managing your child's use of screens and media will be an ongoing challenge. But by developing household rules — and revisiting them as your child grows — you can help ensure a safe experience.

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Dr. Kleber's takeaways: I found this article very useful. The use of cellphones, tablets and computers is becoming more and more integrated into our lives so subsequently these recommendations are ever evolving. Taking breaks from media can be very helpful for mood and to prevent depression.

It seems that many children are using their parent's phone during a doctor's visit. Remember to have your child be present during important interactions with other people to help with socialization. It is ok if they are bored sometimes. That is when creativity can happen!

Author
Dr. Kleber

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