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Happy Pregnancy

Managing Screen Time For Babies and Toddlers

by Sherry Lee 10 Oct 2023

Parents often struggle to know how much screen time their babies and toddlers should be exposed to.

Experts now advise limiting screen time for children under 18 months, with exception to video-chatting with relatives and friends living far away. Co-watching whenever possible helps younger children understand what they are seeing and may increase cognitive development.

The Importance of Limited Screen Time

Now more than ever, media targeting children has many parents concerned about the amount of screen time their children are exposed to. Families must limit screen time in favor of spending quality time interacting, playing and learning from one another.

Young children benefit most from interactions with their caregivers, including face-to-face play and outdoor activities, in addition to restful nights' rest and enough rest and sleep for proper development. According to Iowa State University psychology professor Douglas Gentile, research shows that those children exposed to limited screen time with positive parenting practices experience greater social and cognitive growth compared with those given unlimited screen time exposure.

Parents can help their toddlers and preschoolers understand the significance of limited screen time by setting realistic goals, setting family guidelines, and posting them prominently. Parents can also preview programs, games and apps before allowing their children to watch or use them - this may help avoid exposure to inappropriate material - before giving children permission. It's a good idea for adults to monitor their own screen usage as children often mimic what they see their parents doing on screens.

Screen Time Guidelines

Children should avoid screens an hour before bedtime to help ensure a better night of restful slumber. In addition, screen time should not exceed two hours daily.

Parents often struggle to establish and enforce media limits that feel fair for all family members. One effective solution is ensuring all voices are included when discussing screen time limits, as well as clear consequences when rules are broken.

Parents should strive to engage their children with age-appropriate media content on their devices. This can be accomplished by watching shows or playing games together, discussing what is shown, or making connections between media content and daily life experiences; for instance, after viewing a show about cooking on TV, they might ask their child's help baking something over the weekend.

Doctors of optometry can play a pivotal role in helping educate parents on healthy screen time guidelines by providing them with an informative handout after an eye exam, including WHO recommendations as well as tips for controlling screen time with young children.

Quiet Time and Bedtime Routine

bed time routine

Once your child stops napping (typically around 3 to 5 years old), it is essential that they learn how to fill their time independently with quiet time activities and toys. Quiet time provides your child a space to unwind by themselves with low-key toys and activities and take a breather - it also serves as an invaluable opportunity to teach them self-sufficiency!

Start small - 10-15 minutes will do - and gradually build to longer quiet times every day. Visual cues like timers may help your child understand what's happening during quiet time and that it will soon end, according to Jerica J.

Make quiet time even more special and motivating by providing them with their own box of special toys or books specifically designated for quiet time, such as dolls, books, blocks or puzzles - such as dolls, books or blocks - which should only be used during quiet time (dolls, books or puzzles are ideal) so they aren't used elsewhere during the day! If your child attempts to leave his/her room during quiet time be firm with them; remind them they need to remain inside until nap or bedtime arrives.

Quality Over Quantity

Screens and apps may play a valuable role in toddlers' lives, but experts caution that not all forms of media are created equal. The most effective way to limit screen time is to focus on quality rather than quantity.

High quality videos and games designed specifically to assist toddlers in learning essential skills such as shape recognition, language development, numeracy and literacy are available online and in stores to aid learning. Furthermore, interactive activities promote social thinking as well as problem solving in an engaging setting featuring relatable characters who display healthy behavior models for toddlers.

Low quality TV shows and apps, on the other hand, may contain distracting sounds and fast-paced scenes that confuse and disengage toddlers. To mitigate this problem, parents can co-view such shows whenever possible with their child while engaging them by asking questions about what they are seeing or singing songs together.

Idealistically, families should limit the use of screens altogether or limit it to only a few hours daily and instead engage with each other through other creative forms, such as reading books together or engaging in music-making together or undertaking arts and crafts projects together. Parents can demonstrate healthy screen habits by leaving their own devices tucked away during those periods.

Establish a Screen Time Schedule

Recognizing that screens won't disappear anytime soon is key to helping children make informed choices when using screens, so creating a balanced screen time routine for you and your children is key to helping them make positive choices. Watch out for fast-paced programming that's hard for young children to follow, violent content or apps with ads that distract and confuse. Schedule regular times during the day when neither you nor your child will use screens - such as during meals and one night per week without devices used for homework - when neither will use devices at all. Discuss these rules together before posting them where everyone can see them easily!

Children learn by watching and mimicking their parents, so it is crucial that parents model healthy screen time usage. Simply turning off TV or tablets during mealtimes and spending more time playing outside or reading with your kids are great ways to show them there's fun to be had without screens. Also keep fun, kid-friendly activities on hand such as books, art supplies or Frisbees as an easy solution if your children say they are bored and want something electronic!

Co-Viewing and Interaction

co-viewing and interaction

Parents often worry about the amount of screen time their children spend watching TV and videos, with experts suggesting limiting this exposure; however, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics this viewing behavior can have an impact on how children comprehend media content and learn from it.

Researchers are paying closer attention to what young children see on screens and its context of consumption, with new longitudinal studies being initiated in order to address big questions regarding kids and screens.

Researchers are uncovering evidence that indicates how adults interact with children when viewing media is critically important. Co-viewing, in which parents and children watch the same video at the same time, has been shown to increase cognitive processing of what's on screen and particularly successful when parents adopt interactive behaviors they would have engaged in when reading with their children together such as asking them to identify letters or numbers.

Monitor Content

As you monitor your baby or toddler's screen time, keep an eye out for media that is educational or distracting. For instance, TV and videos featuring dialogue between two people or music with an easy rhythm may help young children learn cause-and-effect relationships more effectively than videos that promote imaginary worlds or offer random noises.

Babies and toddlers gain most from human interactions. At this age, brain regions associated with language development and social interactions rapidly strengthen. Therefore, babies and toddlers require real-world experiences such as physical play, reading and engaging with family members - screen time reducing this aspect of development.

Experts advise against screen time for babies under 18 months (other than video chatting with relatives) while limited, supervised screen time may be provided for toddlers and one hour a day of high-quality educational content for kids ages 2-5. Most importantly, make sure children get plenty of sleep and participate in physical activities daily.

Outdoor Play and Activities

outdoor activities and play time

Babies and toddlers benefit greatly from playing both formally structured games as well as unstructured ones, both indoors and outdoors. Playing outdoors provides children of all ages an invaluable opportunity to burn calories, reduce stress levels and gain plenty of natural sunlight (Deziel 2017).

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises no screen time for infants under 18 months (except FaceTiming with relatives ). Toddlers 18-24 months should only receive one hour per day of high-quality educational programming.

Establishing household rules around how much screen time older children are allowed and when can help set healthy boundaries. Parents should also be mindful of their own screen use and model good habits for their kids; when watching a program together, encourage your child to join by singing along, commenting on characters or asking questions; these interactions foster learning while improving engagement.

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