Managing Screen Time for Toddlers: How to Encourage Healthy Technology
What do you recall when you remember your childhood? You'll probably get memories of playing jump rope, hide and seek, riding bikes, and creating adventurous games. Kids today won't have many of those memories, but they will remember their first iPad, mobile game, and social media.
The term "iPad Kids" has been popular among social media. If you haven't heard this phrase, it describes toddlers and young children who constantly use iPads or tablets. Children today often eat in front of their devices, play and read on their iPads and spend most of their time in front of electronic devices.
There's nothing wrong with digital devices. They give children opportunities to explore the world and learn more. What's concerning is when the time spent in front of the screen exceeds the recommended amount.
iPads and tablets can be addictive if not controlled correctly. You can include screen time in your toddler's daily routine, but limit the usage and substitute it with other activities.
What are the negative effects of excessive screen time on toddler development?
Managing your toddler's screen time might be challenging. To encourage healthy technology use in this digital era, you'll need to understand the effect of technology on toddlers.
Here are 5 ways extra screen time can challenge your child's development:
- Children need social interaction for language development - Language by interacting with people and their environment, and too much screen time can limit their exposure to language-rich interactions. Studies have found that toddlers who spend more time in front of screens have delayed language development.
- Young children need face-to-face interactions for healthy social and emotional development - While video calls with over-the-sea relatives are practical, interactions should also be face-to-face. Children learn social skills by copying their parents, caretakers, and teachers. Even adults who spend too much time in front of the screens may struggle with these skills, let alone toddlers.
- Too much screen time means less physical movement - Toddlers who spend more time in front of screens are more likely to be overweight or obese, as they may be less active and have poor eating habits.
- Digital devices can interfere with your toddler's sleep - Sleep is essential for your child's development. Blue light emitted by screens can disrupt the body's natural sleep cycle and make it harder for children to fall asleep. It means no screen time before bed.
- Excessive screen time can also impact a toddler's attention span - Spending too much time in front of the screen can also affect their ability to focus and follow instructions.
Don't worry! Negative effects don't mean that your child should live digital-free life. You can find solutions to these issues and find ways to include devices in your baby's life and not delay their development.
Positive effects technology and screen time have on Toddlers
When used in moderation, digital devices can have a positive effect on your toddler's development.
- Internet and electronic devices can have educational benefits - This will require good research, but you can expose your child to educational programs and games. These apps can help your toddler improve their basic knowledge, learn about simple math and the alphabet, and more. If you manage your child's screen time and choose the exposure carefully, you can help your child explore the world in a fun way.
- The Internet can expose your child to new ideas and cultures - Children otherwise wouldn't encounter this experience. Educational programs and interactive games can introduce toddlers to new concepts, cultures, and perspectives. You can carefully select shows and programs for your child that educate kids about various cultures and subjects.
- Interactive devices and touchscreens can boost the development of fine motor skills - We talk about this a lot here. It's essential to know that interactive gadgets and games can help promote the development of small and large muscle groups. Playing interactive games can also help toddlers develop hand-eye coordination and dexterity.
- You can bond with your child during scheduled screen time - Spending quality time with your baby is crucial. You can connect with your baby through co-viewing of educational programs, interactive games, and favorite TV shows.
These are just a few positive effects screen time can have on your toddler's development.
If you'd like to learn more about the effects of electronic devices, read our article - What happens in children's brains when they play mobile and video games.
Tips for creating a healthy environment and managing screen time for your toddler
Before we say goodbye, we want to share some tips about encouraging healthy technology use.
We live in a digital era, and there's no way of avoiding using smartphones and tablets around the house. You can limit the consumption of particular media and encourage healthier habits.
Here are our tips that have been tested and recommended by childhood development experts:
- Set Screen Time Limits - The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time to no more than one hour per day for children ages 2 to 5. You can set specific times of day for screen time and stick to those limits. Be consistent and firm about these limits to create a routine.
- Monitor Screen Time - Observe your toddler's screen time and be aware of the content. Make sure the content is age-appropriate, educational, and safe. Set a monitoring feature on your devices to limit the time spent on different types of screens.
- Encourage Other Activities - Taking away a toddler's toy is nearly impossible. You have to substitute it with another activity. Encourage your toddler to engage in other exciting activities that promote healthy development.
- Schedule co-viewing time - Watching and interacting with your toddler during screen time can help you monitor the technology use and provide an opportunity for bonding. You can talk about what you're watching and ask questions to encourage their learning.
- Create Screen-Free Zones - Screens don't have to be everywhere. Experts don't recommend having a TV in your bedroom since it can hinder your sleep quality and productivity. The same rule goes for your child. Create a screen-free zone for your toddler and keep devices away from their bedroom or playroom.
- Lead by Example - And lastly, lead by example. We always say how important it is to show your children more acceptable behavior. Your toddler will observe and copy you every single day. You'll have to model healthy screen time habits for your baby.
Remember, managing your toddler's screen time requires balance and moderation. Prioritizing other forms of play and interaction is essential for their overall development.
It can be challenging to change the rules if your toddler already has formed a habit, but you can introduce these tips one by one to carefully readjust to a healthy approach.