We all know the phrase “all things in moderation” well and practice it in a variety of areas of our lives. When it comes to parenting, moderation is more often the rule than the exception.
However, applying moderation is sometimes harder than it seems when you don’t know quite as much as you’d like about what you are attempting to monitor. There are times when it is difficult to determine what the “moderate” amount should be for your children.
The goal of today’s post is to help parents find some clarity and guidance when attempting to moderate technology use that is a seemingly ever-present entity in our lives.
Any parent can become easily overwhelmed when faced with raising a child at a time when technology and innovation are alive and thriving; when smart phones, e-readers, televisions, laptops, and the like surround your family; and our whole world seems saturated by screens. It doesn’t take long for new parents to start asking themselves questions like:
- “How much screen time is okay for children?”
- “Can screen time be developmentally beneficial to my child?”
- “How can I use technology to enrich my child’s life and encourage learning rather than let it manifest into a distraction or unhealthy obsession?”
These are all great questions worth asking and for all you clearly diligent, caring, and loving parents out there, here are our answers
1.How much screen time is okay for children?
Prior to 2015, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that children under the age of two years old not interact with screens at all. However, in October of 2015, the AAP made revisions to their guidelines, which resulted in the following high-level suggestions:
- For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing.
- For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
- For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, as well as the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity, and other behaviors essential to health.
(American Academy of Pediatrics Announces New Recommendations for Children’s Media Use, 2016)
2. Can screen time be developmentally beneficial to my child and if so, how?
Yes, screen time can be beneficial to your children. However, it is important to use electronic devices in an intentional and interactive manner. It is vital that young children spend minimal time interacting with an electronic device independently. Peggy Price, Early Education Program Manager at the Stern Center for Language and Learning, emphasizes that children make the most developmental gains, especially regarding language and early reading success, when an adult is present to support vocabulary development and later reading comprehension.
Obviously, there are a number of apps developed for electronic devices that are advertised as learning tools for children. These apps and websites aside, there are techniques you can employ while using devices that can benefit your child’s language development. For example, technology can be used as an assistive device when employing strategies. We suggest using some of the stategies from our BUILDING BLOCKS FOR LITERACY® program. Below are a few examples.
3. How can I use technology to enrich my child’s life and encourage learning rather than let it manifest into a distraction or unhealthy obsession?”
When engaged in screen time with your child, try incorporating some shared book reading strategies. For example, if an app or a website features a word your child is unfamiliar with, either in text or in a video, take time to explain the meaning of the word and its use in the given text. Research shows that children need to hear a word about 12 times before they know it well enough to improve their comprehension. Any opportunity to build your child’s vocabulary, especially utilizing the list of $50 words used by mature language users, is beneficial.
While watching video, it is a good idea to engage your child by asking them if they remember what is happening. This will help them advance their skills with sequencing and retelling. Consistently encourage conversation about content on the screen by discussing aspects of it by using who, what, where, when, and why questions.
Another easy, but important, action while using devices is to finger point when interacting with typed content. This is a speech-to-print strategy that helps build your child’s letter and word recognition and works on phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness is important because it is a powerful predictor of the likelihood of reading and spelling success. If a child has poor phonemic awareness it is difficult for him or her to recognize the link between print and sound.
Of course, it is very likely that after reading a blog such as this, you have even more questions, such as:
- “What is considered high-quality programming?”
- “What about background TV exposure? How does that factor in?”
- “Are all screens alike in the way we interact with them and how they affect us?”
We will attempt to address these questions in future blog(s) in hopes of creating even more clarity. Stay tuned!
American Academy of Pediatrics Announces New Recommendations for Children’s Media Use. (2016, October 21). Retrieved February 7, 2017, from https://aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/american-academy-of-pediatrics-announces-new-recommendations-for-childrens-media-use.aspx