In today’s digital world, it’s important for a child’s parent and caregivers to set boundaries for screen time and electronics – especially during early childhood. Here you will learn about the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations for screen time and electronic usage as well as how to manage it at each age during the first 5 years of life.
Despite all the programs, apps, and games designed for children out there, screen time has been shown to have negative effects on brain development, language development, and social-emotional development. Because of this research, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has developed clear recommendations for babies and young children.
The AAP recommends that children younger than 18 months do not use electronics, except for video or Facetime chatting. So for newborns and babies, do not let them watch or give them electronic devices unless you are video chatting. During the video chatting, be sure to talk and describe what is going on to engage your baby beyond the screen.
For toddlers ages 18 months to two years old, only allow minimal screen time with an adult or older child to help them talk about and engage in what they are watching.
For preschoolers, limit screen time to one hour or less a day with programs that are educational, and engage during that with your child. It is best if you watch with your child to talk about what is happening and answer any questions your child may have.
Ending screen time can sometimes lead to behavior problems, especially when your child really likes what she is watching. Here are some ideas to help avoid these issues:
Tell your child exactly how much he or she can watch before starting screen time - For example, explain that he or she can watch 10 minutes or one episode of a show before turning on the TV.
Remind your child of the approaching end of screen time - Give your child a five-minute warning.
End screen time at a natural breaking point- Ending a show or game in the middle can be very upsetting to a child, just like it would be upsetting to you if someone unplugged your TV in the middle of a show. Wait for a scene to end, a commercial break, or an episode to finish to turn off the electronic device.
QUICK TIP: Try to encourage movement during screen time. Ask your child to act like the characters in the show – or break into a dance with your child at every commercial break.