Let’s start with the guidelines…
For children younger than 18 months the AAP recommends to avoid the use of any screen-media other than video-chatting. Parents who want to introduce digital media to children between 18 and 24 months of age should choose high-quality programming and watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing. For 2 to 5-year-olds the recommendation is to limit screen use to 1 hour of high-quality programs per day. Also co-viewing media with them is very important since it helps them understand what they are seeing, and understand how to apply it to the world around them.
Some facts on the research
- Researchers at the University of London that work on the TABLET project investigated the use touchscreen devices among 6 to 36-month infants and found that 99% of families own at least one touchscreen, 97% own multiples devices, and some have up to 14 of them. Also, they found that, on a daily basis, 51% of 6 to 11-month-olds use touchscreen for 8 min on average and 92% of 26 to 36-month-olds for 43 minutes on average.
- University of Toronto researchers found that by 18 months, 20% of children have handheld a device for half an hour. Findings reported that for each 30-minute increase in screen time there’s a 49% increase in risk for expressive speech delays.
- An AAP article on the effects of television viewed by infants younger than 3 years old reported that educational programs are effective in broadening children’s knowledge. They have an effect on their racial attitudes and increase their imaginativeness. It’s important to note that this study was only focusing on the effect of television content rather than viewing time.
- Scientific Reports published a study about the association between screen time and lack of sleep in infants and toddlers between 6 and 36 months. The study concluded that every additional hour of tablet use was associated with an average of 26 minutes less of night sleep.
- University of Princeton researchers have shown that well designed, age-appropriate educational screen time can be beneficial for children. Nevertheless, their report states that children might better understand and learn from real time experiences rather than video.
- Interesting evidence from ScienceDirecton on how children transfer learning from a two-dimensional representation to a three-dimensional object concludes that children can imitate the actions they see on television (2D) using the corresponding objects on real life (3D). Although it also states that children younger than 3 learn less from television in contrast to live demonstrations.
Whether we like it or not, technology has become a part of our daily life. So, what are some suggestions on the use of technological tools around your little one?
- Avoid using media as the only way to calm your child. Although there is some research where in certain situations, like airplanes, media is a useful soothing strategy, try not to use it as the only option.
- Avoid screen time for children under 18 months unless is video-chatting.**
- Always try to choose educational apps of videos and, for 18-24-month-olds, try co-viewing so you can help them understand what they are seeing.
- Limit the use of screen time for your toddler to 1 hour and try co-viewing so you can help him understand how to apply his new knowledge to his surroundings.
- Avoid screens at meal times and one hour before bed.
- Make screen time a family activity, like movie or game night. Ask questions about what you are seeing and learning.
- Turn off the devices when they are not in use. Avoid having the TV on just for background noise.
- “Monkey see, monkey do”. So, try avoiding answering calls or texts while playing with your little one.
- Oxford Academy Pediatrics recommends parents to use screen time mindfully. Limit their own screen time and prioritize interactions. Also choose the media together and pay attention to the message it’s giving to your child. Helping him recognize and question advertisement or other content, or ensure that his media is free of such content.
- Make a family agreement on screen time. The AAP states that when media is used appropriately it can enhance your daily life. Media should work for you and within your parenting style and values. That is why they created a Family Media Plan to help you become aware of when you are using media to achieve your purpose.
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**The AAP media committee has re-evaluated its screen time position taking into account the recent technological boom. They now agree that a total screen ban before two years of age seems to be no longer valid.