This is a most pertinent topic to all of us parents of children of different ages!
Under 24 months
⏹ From a young age, children are bombarded with technology all around them.
⏹ Parents are almost pressurised into thinking that many apps, especially interactive ones, are of educational potential. Remember though- this is a crucial stage of brain development and nothing is more important than healthy developmental activities and parent-child interaction. NO APP CAN REPLACE THIS.
⏹ The American College of Pediatrics thus recommends avoiding ALL digital media in children younger than 18 months
⏹ The only exception is video chatting with distant relatives/parents when they are travelling.
⏹ For children ages 18 to 24 months of age, if you want to introduce digital media, choose high-quality programming and use media together with your child. Avoid solo media use in this age group. The screen is NOT a babysitter.
⏹ Do not feel pressured to introduce technology early; interfaces are so intuitive that children will figure them out quickly once they start using them at home or in school.
⏹ Remember as parents also to demonstrate digital-smart behaviour. Schedule some one-on-one time with the young child in which all gadgets and phones are switched off and packed away.
These principles are based on recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics. (AAP)
Recommendations for Pre-school children
⏹ For children 2 to 5 years of age, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programming daily.
⏹ If possible, co-view with your children, help children understand what they are seeing, and help them apply what they learn to the world around them.
⏹ Avoid fast-paced programs (young children do not understand them as well), apps with lots of distracting content, and any violent content.
⏹ Turn off televisions and other devices when not in use.
⏹ Avoid using media as the only way to calm your child. Although there are intermittent times (eg, medical procedures, airplane flights) when media is useful as a soothing strategy, there is concern that using media as strategy to calm could lead to problems with limit setting or the inability of children to develop their own emotion regulation.
⏹ Monitor children’s media content and what apps are used or downloaded. Test apps before the child uses them, play together, and ask the child what he or she thinks about the app.
⏹ Keep bedrooms, mealtimes, and parent–child playtimes screen free for children and parents. Parents can set a “do not disturb” option on their phones during these times.
⏹ No screens 1 hour before bedtime, and remove devices from bedrooms before bed.
(These principles are based on recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics.)
Recommendations for 6-12 year old primary school children – This age becomes more tricky!
Parents no longer always supervise their children at all times, peer interactions become important to children (including electronic ones!) and many children use devices at school. Margins can become very blurred indeed.
Some tips for this age group:
▶ Continue to limit non-educational screen-times during week days and allow more on weekends.
▶ Stick to the basic rules such as no screens during meals and no screen-time within an hour of bedtime.
▶ Two hours a day of “gadget use” (i-pads or gaming consoles) is fair over the weekends though this can be adjusted according to the child’s schedule and activity levels. Within reason, screen time can also be used as an incentive, e.g. after completing homework tasks or music practice.
▶ Encourage habits and hobbies that do not involve screens!
▶ Have a system of “tasks” to complete before blocks of screen time are allowed, e.g. a household task or physical activity.
▶ Use specialised Apps to manage screen time throughout the day through automated blocks.
▶ Go through apps/games on the gadget of your child to make sure they are appropriate for their age and stage of development.
▶ Discourage social media use in children of this age.
▶ Model good screen-time behaviour! Dedicate some special time to your child each day during which neither of you have any screens at hand!