More than 30 percent of children in the United States play with mobile devices while still in diapers.
You may have seen older news reports in which the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that children under two shouldn’t have any screen time, and older children and teens should be limited to no more than two hours of screen time a day. Just months ago, the AAP changed what it considers its “outdated” policies.
I’ve never been guilt-ridden over screen time. I’ve always known that my toddler’s screen time can lead to some amazing personal discoveries. Also, while I know I can parent, I’m self-aware enough to know that I’m not one to do flashcards with my kids. Since this is the case, I see no problem in their using a screen (under my supervision) to learn about animals, colors, and other basic concepts.
The screen time doesn’t just help my kids, but me as well. I am a person, darnit! I have needs. If some screen time gives me 30 minutes of uninterrupted time, my kids have a happier and calmer mommy.
Sure, there’s risk to it, and it can be overdone. Like anything else, it’s all about balance. My kids would live on FaceTime, Xbox and Instagram if I allowed it. But because we lead balanced lives, they get straight As in school, sleep like rockstars and aren’t anti-social zombies.
Based on my experience, a few tips on how to make the smartest screen choices for your toddler:
Be choosy about content. Let your toddler watch a show that is relevant to his age and learning level, but there’s no need to dumb it down. Top-rated apps like Super Why ABC Adventures and Peekaboo Barn, electronic picture books, or family videos on your phone are always good choices.
Be aware of when your child is having screen time, and make sure you balance it with free play and time with the family.
Be proactive in terms of how the screen time impacts your child. The screen time itself may spark new interests or necessitate more parent-time, depending on who your toddler is.
Be smart about when you allow screen time. We use screen time when the kids wake up and go to bed as part of their routine, allowing them to wake up slowly and mellow out easily. Yes, it’s a crutch — but an effective one. I’ll allow 15 minutes of screen time for instant Zen every time.
Be involved in your child’s screen time. Yes, it can be mind numbing talking about Minecraft, but it means a lot for her to take you into her world and interests. Give her interests some validation while likely giving you some much needed new conversation topics.
Be firm when enforcing limits. Tell your children what goes and stick to it. It’s just like anything else in parenting: You’ve got to set boundaries and be consistent so your kids know what to expect.
Parents need to remember that while technology keeps changing, parenting has not. Life balance is important and everything in moderation, so keep an eye on how much time your children are spending in front of a screen, just as you want to keep an eye on how much they’re doing something else.