How to Reduce Your Toddler’s Screen Time (Without the struggle)?
Is Screen Time Bad for toddlers?
Toddlers spending too much time watching the screen may lead to unhealthy behaviors growing up. According to a new study, young children or toddlers who are habitual of spending more than three hours a day viewing a screen, either playing on mobile/tablet or watching TV, are more likely to be sedentary by the time they reach kindergarten-age.
Can Screen Time be Educational for Toddlers?
It is important for parents to recognize that not all screen time is created equal. Some games, apps, and TV shows are more developmentally appropriate for preschool children than others. And just as important as the choice of media itself is the role you play in how your child consumes it.
How much screen time should a two-year-old have?
A disturbing new study has found that kids under 2-years-old spend more than double the amount of time watching screens compared to 20 years ago.
According to the report conducted at the University of Michigan, found that young children in 1997 were having an average of 1.32 hours of daily screen time, compared to 3.05 hours per day in 2014.
And it is not even a result of advancements in technology, with researchers coming to know that kids spent most of their screen time on TV rather than smart devices like iPhones/tablets.
Moreover, the 3.05 hours of children now spend watching screen each day has also been proven to be harmful.
According to the findings of the University of Michigan, research comes just weeks after another study, which found that children with “Excessive screen time results in delays in development.”
The study, which saw children with an average of two to three hours each day, linked this screen time to cognitive delays and poorer academic performance in children.
Also, The Post has also earlier reported that too much screen time for kids could result in health problems when they become adults.
The review, which was conducted by the World Cancer Research Fund, saw that “sedentary behaviors” like staring at computer screens are contributing factors to excessive weight gain.
“New technologies have encouraged people to increase the time they spend engaging in sedentary behaviors such as sitting in cars and watching television as well as using computers, electronic entertainment, and mobile phones,” the report said.
“Insufficient levels of physical activity have been linked to a number of health problems including cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, poor bone health, and depression.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that screen time for preschool children, ages 2 to 5, should be limited to just 1 hour a day of “high-quality programming.” For children younger than that, screen time should be avoided altogether, other than video chatting.
More Than 2 Hours of Screen Time May Affect Kids’ Brains
Children perform better on mental and academic tests when they limit their screen time to under two hours per day, eat right, sleep well, and stay physically active.
If you want to maximize your child’s brainpower, help them develop good habits, suggests a new study.
This includes encouraging them to limit their recreational screen time to no more than two hours a day, stay physically active, and get enough sleep.
Researchers found that 37% of children had two hours or less of recreational screen time per day, 51% had 9 to 11 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night, and 18% got at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity.
Only 5% of the children in the study met all three recommendations, while 29% met none at all.
Researchers found that children who met the guidelines for all three areas had “superior global cognition” in comparison to those who met none. This includes memory, attention, processing speed, and language as well.
The researchers did not see a connection between physical activity and improved cognition. However, they noted in the paper that this may be due to a lack of information about the intensity and kinds of physical activity that kids were doing.
While there are guidelines for healthy levels of screen time, sleep, and physical activity for children, this study looked at how they interacted.
Developing healthy screen habits
“Parents should be aware of what their kids are doing and talk to them about it”. “But the guidelines don’t necessarily say parents should be there for every minute of screen time.”
It is not just the parents’ responsibility to help children learn healthy habits for screen use, eating, physical activity, and sleep. The schools, school boards, teachers, and communities should be involved, too.
Both of these studies emphasize that screen time is just one-factor affecting children’s cognitive abilities.
So parents should keep the whole day in mind when helping their child develop good habits.
“Start your day with a good night’s sleep, try to move as much as possible, and try to limit your sitting time or screen time,”. “This is going to be good not just for your health, but also for your cognitive function. And for kids, if they have a better cognitive function, they may succeed better in their life.”
What’s the big deal about toddler screen time?
While many apps and television shows are marketed as being educational for young children, countless studies have shown that even the best of them cannot compete with real-life activities and human interaction.
A seminal study from the University of Washington a decade ago compared the results of a group of seven-month-olds who interacted in real life with a Mandarin Chinese speaker and comparable groups who watched a DVD or just listened to the audio. The group who listened to the live tutor was quickly able to distinguish Mandarin sounds from English, while the other groups acquired no recognition of the language
According to the University of Washington Institute for Brain Sciences, “is at least in the very early age children need that live human experience and the technology is not an adequate substitute.”
Another thing parents should keep in mind about toddler development is that gross motor skills come before fine motor skills. “Using apps and TV viewing tends to be sedentary activities”. It’s not an opportunity for them to use their bodies to explore and to integrate thinking as much as something that involves some physical movement.”
Toddler screen time should be interactive
Experts say that parents looking for educational value in programming and apps should preference ones that have some sort of interactive element. When it comes to young children, Schwartz explains that for something to be truly interactive, the child must be “able to understand the rules and directions fairly easily, depending on the child’s developmental level.”
Parents are the interactive element
But perhaps the most important form of interactivity is what happens with parents as they participate in toddler screen time. Simple screen time just with the child watching the show or playing with the app is far less valuable than when it also involves direct interaction with the parents.
Parents needn’t feel guilty about every moment of screen time, she adds. “If you need to take a shower and the kid is going to watch TV for 20 minutes, totally fine. There’s no evidence that’s going to in any way harm their development. But I think if you want that to be an educational experience, understand that you need to be with the child, watching the screen with them and asking those kinds of deeper scaffolding questions and really engaging in that media experience with the child.”
And of course, screens can be used for young children to interact with real people. “One of the great uses of iPads/iPhones is communicating with friends or relatives who do not live nearby”.
Apps should be open-ended
An open-ended, responsive, choose your own adventure-style app is more likely to have educational benefits than one that is linear, experts agree. The play should be child-led, rather than app-led.
There is a classic saying that any toy that your child is playing with should be 10% toy, 90% child. “As with toys, that’s something we would suggest in an app. Things that are more open-ended allow a child to really create and be creative and interact with the app.”
It is recommended that parents check out Common Sense Media’s rating system for TV shows, movies, and apps. Independent reviewers evaluate whether they are age-appropriate if there are any caveats in terms of content, and how educational they are. “I think that it demystifies things a little bit,” she says, “and gives parents a clearer picture of what’s going on.”
Detailed reviews on the site discuss the learning activities an app offer, the quality of content, the pacing, and the level of difficulty. They even offer topics for a family discussion about the programming.
Entertainment for entertainment’s sake
So much pressure has been put on parents to find educational apps and TV shows for their kids that it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that it can also be simply a form of entertainment.
“I think that it’s completely fine if media is entertainment,”. “We just need to understand and manage expectations according to the circumstances. Certainly, media that’s entertainment is fine for kids as long as the amount of time is moderate and the content is appropriate. Just like many adults like to watch TV to unwind at the end of the day, it can be a fun treat for kids too, and that’s okay.”
According to a study, social stories in children’s programming can be very interesting to kids, and worth reinforcing by parents in conversation.
Don’t be afraid of quiet time
There seems to be a lot of pressure on parents to fill every minute of their child’s day with engaging, educational activities, and apps and TV seem like an easy way to fill that quota. But “I don’t think kids need to be busy all day long”.
“I think that quiet time is important. A child can sit with a book and there’s something to be said for learning to turn the page, deciding if the book is right-side up or upside down, they’re making their own stimulation as opposed to the phone being on and stimulating.” There’s developmental value in kids having to figure out their own entertainment once in a while, rather than having it all fed to them.
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