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Screen Time and Social-Emotional, Behavioral Development

Electronic devices and screens (televisions, tablets, cellphones, etc.) are part of our everyday lives. So how do we regulate these devices with our children to promote their best social-emotional and behavioral development?

Mother and daughter sitting on couch reading

Children’s screen time and use of electronics should be limited and monitored – especially before the age of five. As a parent, there are things you can do to ensure that what your children watch supports their social-emotional and behavioral development.

  • Before your child is 18 months old, screen time should include only video chat with friends and family. Encourage your child to engage and talk during the video chat. It’s fun to watch your child enjoy this special interaction with loved ones!

  • When your child is 18 months to five years old, keep screen time to a minimum, and monitor closely. Select child-friendly programming that incorporate educational ideas and concepts, such as Sesame Street and PBS Kids. As your children get older, they can help you choose the shows or videos to watch.  

  • As much as possible, watch the shows or videos with your child so you can talk and engage with your child about the content of the shows. For example, if the character is singing a song, sing the song out loud while watching the show together.  

  • Ask your child questions about the shows or videos. What does your child think the character is feeling? What will happen next in the video? What things did the characters do that were kind and helpful to others?

  • Turning off a video or show can sometimes be difficult for a child. To prevent a tantrum, tell your child the time limit for the show or video before starting. (Example: “You get to watch one video, then we’ll go outside to play.”). Before the show is about to end, remind your child about the limit you set.

You can go here to learn more about the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations for children’s media use.

Check out these age-appropriate shows and educational video suggestions:

First 5 California
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First 5 California
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