Deciding how much screen time to allow your child, and how to use that screen time, is an increasingly common concern. Children are learning to use smartphones, tablets, and computers at younger and younger ages, leaving parents to wonder how best to use these devices in a healthy way.
While the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests no screen time (except for the occasional video chat) for children younger than around age 2, older toddlers and preschoolers can enjoy limited, high-quality programming for about an hour a day.1 Older children, meanwhile, have less defined time limits. This is the age where you’ll need to decide the best plan for managing screen time. You might consider making a family media plan, such as this one available from the American Academy of Pediatrics, to ensure that your child has an appropriate balance between screen time, outdoor time, non-screen hobbies, and family time.
Here are some other ways to get the most out of your child’s screen time:
Co-Viewing and Co-Playing
Co-viewing a program with your child, or joining them in playing a mobile game or app, provides a variety of healthy benefits to your children. Preschoolers, in particular, benefit immensely from their interactions with you. Ask your child questions about a character’s emotions during a TV episode, or what they think will happen next in the story.2 You’ll be helping your child to develop important critical thinking and communication skills, as well as traits like empathy, understanding, and humor. When playing an app or game with your child or teen, you’ll be connecting with your child through an experience that he or she enjoys. This time will also give you greater insight into your child’s opinions and interests.
Choose Quality Programming
Monitor the programs that your child watches, and steer them toward shows and movies that model positive behavior and teach important concepts for their age or grade level. The website, Common Sense Media.org, provides TV, movie, and app recommendations that can help guide you in choosing quality programs for your family.
For younger children, shows like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood 2 and Sesame
Street 3 are lauded for their potential to teach children social-emotional and educational concepts. Older kids might enjoy the 90s classic, Hey Arnold, while teens can learn life lessons from Degrassi.4,5
PBS has a Cookie Monster Challenge App that is highly rated for children 5 and under, while Goldie Blox and Tynker teaches older children the basics of coding. You might also consider an app like NASA or a historical game like The Oregon Trail.
Use Screen Time as Learning Time
Particularly with younger children, consider viewing television episodes more than once to allow your child to fully grasp the show’s themes and concepts.2 Find ways to expand on the program after your viewing, such as through a character-themed art project or a trip to the museum after a museum episode.6
Screen time doesn’t have to be wasted time. You can use your child’s screen time to assist them with developing important life skills. Taking the time to formulate a plan for your family’s screen usage can help you manage the growing presence of technology in your children’s lives.
Participating in screen time with your child may also allow you to catch a glimpse into your child’s development. If you have any concerns about your child’s development, Neurobehavioral Associates can help. We provide comprehensive consultation and assessment for children with suspected neurodevelopmental disorders, including learning and attention disorders. Contact us with your concerns, and we’ll provide you with our assessment and referral services to guide your child toward the path to success.
- Children and Media Tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics. (2018, May 1). Retrieved September 10, 2018, from https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/news-features-and-safety-tips/Pages/Children-and-Media-Tips.aspx
- Back to school ideas for preschool thru college – and teachers too. (2018, August 06). Retrieved September 10, 2018, from https://hechingerreport.org/back-to-school-ideas-for-preschool-thru-college-and-teachers-too/
- Essential TV | Common Sense Media. (n.d.). Retrieved September 10, 2018, from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/guide/essential-tv/s/age 2-6
- Essential TV | Common Sense Media. (n.d.). Retrieved September 10, 2018, from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/guide/essential-tv/s/age 7-12
- Essential TV | Common Sense Media. (n.d.). Retrieved September 10, 2018, from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/guide/essential-tv/s/age 13-17
- DeWitt, S. (2017, October 16). Making the Most Out of Kids’ Screen Time. Retrieved September 10, 2018, from http://www.pbs.org/parents/expert-tips-advice/2017/10/making-kids-screen-time/