In this digital age, it’s become common to spend time staring at a screen. Whether it’s texting on our smartphones, browsing the web on our computers or playing a game on our tablets – there’s no denying we’re a screen obsessed society.
Technology has advanced so much in the last decade, opening up a whole world of entertainment at our fingertips. It isn’t just for adults either. Smartphone’s and tablets come with a whole range of goodies to keep the kids happy. Many parents have found settling their little ones in front of a tablet is an awesome sanity-saver, giving them a little peace to recharge and relax after a stressful day.
However, is screen time good for toddlers and how do you know how much is enough? Here we’ll look at what the experts recommend and the key factors to consider.
How Much Screen Time Should A Toddler Have?
You’ll find a wide range of opinions online as to how much screen time is healthy for toddlers. Some will argue you shouldn’t give them any screen time until they are older, while others say moderate screen time is perfectly ok. As far as experts go, for children under the age of two, they do recommend limiting screen time to 15-30 minutes a day at most (no screen time at all is preferred), while for toddlers this increases to one-two hours a day.
It’s not just about the actual time spent in front of a screen you should worry about either. The type of screen time you’re giving your little one is equally as important. For example, screen time spent using educational apps designed for toddlers can be really beneficial in terms of development. However, screen time purely spent watching cartoons that aren’t very educational can cause issues, particularly with language development.
So, in terms of how much screen time should your child have, a maximum of two hours is the popular recommendation. However, as a general rule it’s better to opt for an “as little as possible” guideline. It’s also important to note that the one-two hour recommendation is based upon screen time being spread out over the day. You shouldn’t let your toddler use a tablet or smartphone for two hours straight. Instead, split it down to 15-30 minute sessions.
The Pros And Cons Of Toddler Screen Time
As with any aspect of parenting, the choice is ultimately yours when it comes to choosing how much or how little screen time your toddler has. However, it is helpful to understand both the pros and cons before you make a decision.
The pros of toddler screen time include:
- It’s an excellent distraction
- It can be educational
- Can help them to develop digital skills
While some may look at the distraction benefit as “lazy parenting”, the majority of parents will know exactly how vital distractions can be for their sanity. When you’ve tried absolutely everything to settle your little one down but nothing has worked, getting a little peace for half an hour thanks to a mobile device can be a huge relief. It’s not bad parenting, it’s a vital coping skill. As long as you aren’t giving them screen time every time they start to make a fuss, it isn’t going to be a problem. Like anything, the key is moderation.
Screen time can also be educational for toddlers too. In short bursts, educational apps can help your little one learn new colors, numbers and words. This is especially true if you’re using the app with your toddler and helping them to learn.
Finally, some experts highlight the fact that using smartphones and tablets is a great way to instill digital skills into our children’s lives – something that’s become increasingly important over time. Workplaces today look for candidates that are digitally savvy, so in the long-term, if used in moderation, screen time at an early age can help your child develop skills needed in today’s society.
So, those are the pros, but what about the cons? According to some experts and research, toddler screen time can:
- Alter brain development
- Prevent them learning real world skills
- Damage the bonding process
- Encourage unhealthy habits
If too much time is spent in front of a screen, it can lead to brain development issues. This is largely linked to television watching, but can be impacted by mobile and tablet screen time too.
The real worry regarding toddler screen time however, is that it will prevent them learning real world skills. Toddlers learn by interacting with physical things. They need to learn how to interact with people and objects. So, if they’re spending more time in front of a screen than they are playing in the real world, it can have a negative effect on their development.
If they’re spending too much time in front of a screen, it’s also going to affect the parent-child bond. It’s important to never replace parent and child time completely with screen time. It’s easy to just stick your toddler in front of a device when they’re playing up, but spending actual time playing with them is much healthier and can even prevent behavioral issues. Sometimes toddlers simply crave your attention so they get it any way that they can, even if it’s through acting out. If you ensure you spend enough time with them, you may find their bad behavior diminishes.
Too much screen time is also going to promote unhealthy habits. If they get used to staring at a screen for long periods of time each day, they’re going to carry that on into the rest of their childhood and even adulthood. So, encourage them to play outside and experience the real world as much as possible to avoid this becoming an issue.
Overall, these days’ children do spend far too much time in front of a screen. While in small doses it can be beneficial for both you and your toddler, it’s important to ensure it isn’t being used as a replacement for real world interaction. Don’t feel bad if you let your child have a little screen time each day, just be aware of the guidelines and ensure they get a lot more off-screen than on-screen time.