Like it or not, screen are a huge thing in almost every household right now, and there’s a really good chance that your kids are fast becoming way more tech savvy than you! So what are your thoughts on screen time for toddlers? Is it a yes or a no? Or are you on the fence? This week we’re looking at the pros and cons of screen time in general, and I’ll be sharing some tips and advice for your toddlers too.
Our kids are often referred to as the digital generation, and really this is no bad thing. There is a much huger world out there for them to explore these days- information at the tips of their fingers, and so many new and creative ways to learn. But with the vastness of this amazing resource comes a few pitfalls too, and its up to us as parents to ensure our children are using screen safely and appropriately.
Benefits of screen time
For toddlers, there are many benefits of having supervised screen time. And it really does need to be supervised, so that you are not only aware of what they’re doing online, but so that you can ensure it really is beneficial too. It’s worth noting here though that the American Academy of Paediatrics and the World Health Organisation advise that children under the age of two should have no screen time at all, while children between the ages of two and five should be limited to two hours a day. The benefits of screen time for toddlers include:
- Education. There are apps and games and even YouTube channels dedicated towards furthering your child’s learning. Whether it’s the ABC, colours or how to tell the time- there’s no doubt that your toddler can learn a lot from being online. There are so many educational apps so its really worth the time investigating.
- Communication. With your help, your toddler can understand a little more about how we communicate with others all around the world. Ok, so they’re not going to be able to send an email without your help, but it’s a great way to teach about keeping in touch and building a global community.
- Creativity. There are so many opportunities to introduce your toddler to new music, arts, dance and more thanks to the abundance of material online.
- Fine motor skills. Most toddlers these days know how to swipe, double click and drag-and that can be a great thing when it comes to fine motor skills!
Without wanting to start a debate, another benefit of screen time for toddlers is that it gives us parents a break! Of course, a screen is no substitute for parental supervision and should never be used in excess, but we all need a hot cup of tea now and then, so don’t feel guilty if your toddler is engrossed in an educational activity online and you want to grab the opportunity to do something else.
Cons of screen time
Ask any parent and they will tell you that trying to control screen time with the kids can be a nightmare. As beneficial as it can be to have a technologically able child, there should be strict rules as to how long and how often your child is on the iPad. And enforcing these rules can be hard! Other cons include:
- Poor posture. Some kids tend to bend at the neck when they’re using a small screen, so try and encourage a different position if you can. Wall brackets are a great idea to keep the head up and spine straight.
- Arguments. If you have more than one child desperate to get online you’ll know what I mean!
- Disinterest in other activities. Your toddler should first and foremost want to run, play and create in the world around them. Screen time really does need to be limited and should never be used as a replacement for other activities.
- Lack of social skills. As children become more absorbed with their online world, some can start to forget the real world around them. Lots of parents report that their children are more emotional or aggressive after being online. If this is the case for you, screen time rules need to be re-addressed.
Screen time and sleep
There is lots of evidence that suggests screen time can interfere with sleep, and when it comes to your toddler this is the last thing you want! Human beings produce melatonin, a hormone that helps us to sleep, when it’s dark. The artificial lights from a screen can interfere with the production of melatonin, making it hard to fall asleep. For this reason, we always recommend screens are never used before bedtime.
Screen time has also been linked to irregular sleeping patterns, and watching television before bed can be just as bad. If your child struggles to wind down ready for bed, always try other methods to help relax. A warm bath and quiet bedtime story is always a much better idea- even when compared to apps or games designed to help toddlers relax and fall asleep.
Setting some screen time rules
- Set time limits. Use an egg timer or an app that switches everything off after an agreed time. Make sure your toddler knows that when the time is up, that’s it- and make sure you have another activity ready to go.
- Plan screen time. Take an active role in what your toddler is doing on the iPad and spend time playing with them so that you can both benefit from the activity.
- NO devices in bedrooms! That includes yours too.