Supporting Healthy Screen Time Use For Kids
Screen Time- including TV, computers, smartphones, tablets and video games – can affect how your children learn, feel, think, and behave. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages you to help your children develop healthy media use habits.
We get that it’s hard to remove screens once kids have become accustomed to them. Here are some simple “nudges” to consider that help with healthy media/screen time use:
Screen Time Diet Ideas
- TV-free rooms (e.g., no TVs in the bedroom, kitchen)
- Media-Free Mornings
- Screen-Free Sundays
- Digital-Free Meals
- No screens after 6 P.M. for better sleep
- Decreasing/eliminating background TV
- Physical Movement screen time (e.g., yoga videos, dancing videos), instead of inactive screen time
Developmental Ideas to Support Screen-Free Activities
- Outside Play 2 times a day
- Book Sharing before bed and nap
- Conversation Time
- Pretend Play 2 times a day (e.g., superheroes, cooking, restaurant, doctor, tea-party)
- Daily Development Activities (e.g., blocks, books, cars, water play, Play-Doh, drawing/coloring, puzzles, music, sports, art)
- Community Helping before earned screen time (e.g., watering plants, sorting laundry, meal prepping/cooking, cleaning up room)
Joint Media Engagement (co-viewing) is preferred over the child viewing screens independently. Children are more likely to learn from screens when interacting with peers or adults.
Talk to your child about what they are viewing. Label the names of objects and actions to expand vocabulary. Point out good character traits such as cooperation, friendship, and concern for others. Make connections to meaningful events or places of interest.
Recommended Screen Time by Age
0-18 months – Avoid screen time. Video chatting with family and friends is okay.
18-24 months old – Encourage as much physical and creative interaction with people as possible. IF you want to introduce digital media, choose high-quality content and co-view. Talk to them to help them understand what they are seeing. At this age, they are not capable understanding and learning from the content while watching TV/videos alone.
2-5 years old – 1 hour/day while co-viewing high quality programs with an adult to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them. Choose media that is interactive, non-violent, and relevant to them. Find other activities for your children that are healthy for their bodies and minds.
6+ years old – 2 hours/day, except for homework. Consider the types of media and make sure it does not take place of adequate sleep, physical activity, nutrition, and other activities essential to health.
Why do we need to pay attention to screen time?
Brain development is happening rapidly for young children, especially those under 3. Excessive screen time may inhibit the child’s ability to observe and experience everyday activities needed to engage with in order to learn about the world.
This can lead to a kind of “tunnel vision.” If they’re on their device excessively, it can affect the way they learn new things, interact with others and how their language develops.
What are the negative effects of too much screen time?
- irregular sleep
- less outdoor and physical activity
- weight problems
- mood problems
- shorter attention spans
- delayed talking and language skills
- vision problems
- behavioral problems
- poor coping skills for struggles and stress
- difficulty with social skills and relationship development
- problems with neck and back posture
- lower test scores at school
- less creative play
If you fear that your child has already been exposed to too much screen time, don’t worry. Start slowly implementing the ideas above to encourage healthy screen time use for kids. If you have concerns about your child’s development, contact Kids Place Pediatric Therapy for an evaluation. We offer pediatric speech, physical, occupational and feeding therapy.