TV, cell phones, video games, computers, tablets. Technology is everywhere and for many parents and educators, it is a challenge to figure out how to limit their child’s screen time and create healthy boundaries. It’s a subject affecting children of all ages. Parents use phones and tablets to keep their toddlers in one spot for a few minutes. When kids become teenagers, they are glued to their phones constantly chatting, messaging, and connecting with friends on social media.
AAP Guidelines for children’s use of technology
In 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics released guidelines for children’s use of technology. The AAP recommends:
- Babies younger than 18 months: no screen with the exception of video-chats
- Kids 18 to 24 months: high-quality programming if parents want to introduce digital media; parents should watch with kids
- Kids 2 to 5 years: limited screen time to one hour a day of high-quality programs; parents should view with kids
- Kids 6 and older: consistent limits on screen time; limits on types of media; and making sure screen use does not interfere with kids getting enough exercise and sleep
- Parents should establish screen-free times (ex. During dinner) and no-screen areas in the home (ex. In bedrooms).
- Parents should talk to kids about online safety and being respectful to others online.
It takes time and effort to establish healthy boundaries and make sure that our children can use technology beneficially and safely, but it is really worth it. Here is a reminder of the important things kids miss out on while they are glued to their screens.
5 things kids miss out while glued to their screens
What are some alternatives to screen time?
Connecting with Family
Family time suffers when parents and kids permit technology to dominate their time. Time spent looking at the screen is missed opportunities to connect with each other. Dedicating times throughout the day and areas of the home that are screen-free will promote time without devices. Then you’ll be able to truly engage with one another and foster positive relationships.
Entertainment delivered from a screen is most often passive. According to the Brain Performance Center, “when you watch TV, brain activity switches from the left side of your brain responsible for logical thought and critical analysis) to the right side. This is significant because the right side of the brain tends not to analyze incoming information.”
When the screens are off and a child is left to play, they then have the time and space to use their imagination. They can build, create, draw, and paint. Have materials for creative play in places that are accessible to your children and ask them questions about the things they create. Imaginative play is essential for children’s development.
Physical activity is essential for children’s health and getting them outside will allow them to run, throw a ball and play sports. Fresh air and sunshine also improve health. Time spent outside allows them to develop an interest and appreciation for the natural world. Unplugging and going outdoors benefits kids physically, emotionally and mentally.
Screen time is missed opportunity to pick up a book. Watching screens puts children in a passive state of only intaking information. Meanwhile, reading is mentally stimulating. It is also beneficial for vocabulary expansion, improved memory, building strong analytical thinking skills and improving focus and concentration. Encourage a love for books by reading with your child and set an example by reading yourself. Build reading into the bedtime routine you have with your child and have them spend as much time with a book as with a screen.
Due to the constant connectedness of technology, the way that children interact is very different than the way their parents did growing up. Friends get together and play video games or stream movies. Teenagers communicate through social media and text rather than engage in face-to-face conversations. When we get our children to socialize without the screens, they can participate in imaginative play, outdoor spots, traditional board games and undistracted conversation with their peers. They can then create memories and bonds with others.
It’s not just a matter of what kids miss out on while they’re on a device. Limiting screen time will let them gain in their overall health.