We live in a digital world where media and technology is life, work and play. We use it in schools, at work and at home. So what does this mean for your children and how important is it to limit daily screen time? How do you maintain a healthy media diet for your child while also embracing a digital world, a modern childhood?
Although statistics are constantly evolving, a recent study by the National Institute of Health’s Medline Plus reports that children spend an average of three hours a day watching television and another three to four hours on other types of digital media.
Totaling seven hours a day on digital screens! This average is based purely on entertainment, not screen time used in schools or on educational programs. If that number does not get your attention, research presented to the Pediatrics Academic Societies’ (PAS) meeting in 2015 revealed that over a third of infants and toddlers under the age of two regularly use smart phones and tablets as forms of entertainment. This number is most likely higher today.
Smart phones, tablets, computers and televisions have quickly replaced books, coloring books and paint-by-numbers and are providing children and parents with fast, easy and addictive entertainment. Liraz Margalit, PhD in Web Psychology and contributor to Psychology Today points out that young children are drawn to the immediate feedback and shortcut tools of smart phones and tablets, but these actions do not necessarily help your child master or develop early learning abilities.
For younger children, it can actually delay development and the necessary multi-step processing their brains need to be able to develop at this stage. For example, a tablet may be able to read a book to your child, but according to Margalit, this form of delivery is too easy. Like spoon-feeding your child when they are older and capable of doing it themselves.
Instead, she says children need to develop and learn the skills necessary to process a voice reading words to them. Filling in images and actions in their minds from those words to picture a story instead of the sounds and pictures miraculously appearing on a screen.
Recent research reported this year to the PAS has linked increased screen time in children six months to two years of age with a higher likelihood of having speech delays and stunted brain development.
Furthermore, high amounts of screen time can also hinder your child’s ability to understand social connections and it can be hard for them to switch from digital technology to other aspects of life such as trying to swipe a physical picture in a book thinking everything in life is digital.
Other studies have shown too much screen time can disrupt sleep habits. While more studies need to be done and we learn more and more everyday about the positive and negative effects of digital media, you get the point. While digital media can have a lot of positive aspects, too much time spent on these devices can produce negative effects outweighing the good.
Because of these alarming statistics and increased observations and information regarding the negative effects of screen time on children, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently updated their suggestions on screen. Here’s a quick summary:
• 0-18 months: No screen time unless using video chat
• 18-24 months: Very limited use of digital devices. Choose high-quality educational programs and watch them with your child so you can talk with them about what is happening
• 2-5 years old: No more than 1 hour per day of high-quality programming.
• 6 years and older: Place realistic limits on the time and type of programming you allow your children to watch or games they are allowed to play.
*Summary based on suggestions from the American Academy of Pediatrics https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/american-academy-of-pediatrics-announces-new-recommendations-for-childrens-media-use.aspx
While digital media can play a significant and positive role in education and can have many benefits for learning and developing certain skills, each parent should talk with their pediatrician and together decide on what is appropriate for your child. Parents and caretakers should create an individualized media diet for their child.
For example, create areas, places and times that are digital-free zones such as during family dinners or in the bedrooms. Limit the types of programs your child can watch or games they can play and focus those allowed on high-quality programming. Most importantly, remember that we live in a world of technology where knowledge is power and moderation is key.
Hale ’Opio Kauai convened a support group of adults in our Kauai community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Esther Solomon at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Hale ‘Opio Kauai, please go to www.haleopio.org