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Healthy Screen Time: A Guide for Parents of Toddlers

Updated: May 15, 2023

by Angela Nilsen

In the current age of technology, with TVs, tablets, computers, and phones everywhere, finding a healthy balanced perspective towards using technology becomes crucial. Parents can find it overwhelming to think about their toddler’s screen time.

Healthy screen time can be educational and aid in children’s social development, although it is essential to note that most of the baby’s brain development usually occurs in the first two years of life; hence toddlers and babies need to experience the environment they are in to understand sound, sight, touch, and texture. Playing and interacting with other toddlers assist them in learning about their surroundings.

Keeping some of the risks regarding excessive screen time in mind, such as; sleep-deprivation, attention disorders, aggression, overweight, nearsightedness, and impact on a toddler’s early education and self-image, in this article, we shall discuss some recommendations regarding building a healthy screen time practice for toddlers that is suitable for using technology tailored to your family needs and preferences.

Recommended screen time limits

Parents often struggle with setting screen time limits for their toddlers; introducing the limits and associated technology etiquettes early during childhood will make it easier for parents to establish a routine later on for their children. While there are many opinions regarding average screen time for infants and toddlers, here are some recommendations from World Health Organization experts:

  1. No screen time is advocated for toddlers under two years; only education programs with parents or caregivers are recommended. Some early learning essentials can be found in this article.

  2. For children between two and five years old, screen time less than or equal to one hour per day is recommended.

As a parent, if you are unsure of tailoring these recommendations to your toddlers and households, building screen time boundaries can begin with an open conversation with your kids regarding how technology and the online community make them feel and help them understand why less screen time is healthy.

Some beneficial guidelines for parents would be; using parental controls whenever required to limit screen time, turning off all screens at least half an hour before bedtime, and discouraging using phones, tablets, or other electronic devices during family activities such as lunch and dinner.

Helping kids prioritize completing homework, chores, and other critical educational activities before using screens.

It is essential that parents or a caregiver also have healthy screen time etiquette and be good role models. Engaging toddlers with other activities such as reading, outdoor play whenever feasible, and arts and crafts will assist in building healthy screen time and early education.

Building good screen quality

Along with building a healthy screen time, it is vital to consider what content your kid consumes; thus, developing a good screen quality is essential for your toddler’s well-being and mental health. Some categories to follow while helping your kid pick what to watch are; ‘healthy,’ ‘junk,’ and ‘toxic’ screen quality.

Healthy screen time is the content that is usually associated with creativity; self-care, which is non-violent in nature and is relatable to your toddler’s day-to-day life. Junk screen time is content related to mindless scrolling but is fundamentally harmless, and toxic screen time is affiliated with self-harm and encourages bullying.

Ideally, healthy screen time may also comprise the activities you would do with your toddlers. These activities include interactive learning, playing games, and reading. This aids in nurturing a good parent-child relationship resulting in good childhood memories for children as they grow up.

In addition, observe what your toddler watches and ask questions about what they are seeing, reading, and playing; drawing your toddler’s attention to parts of the video or the interactive application when necessary will support learning and help the child make connections with real-life scenarios. Testing the applications and programs before your child watches them is crucial.

Toddlers find it challenging to differentiate between commercial advertisements and actual digital content; hence, it is crucial to eliminate fast-paced programs and applications with too many distractions and interruptions. It would be best to avoid installing screens or devices in your toddler’s room for better sleep and the impacts of blue light emissions.

Developing good-quality screen time aims to magnify healthy screen quality, restrict junk screen quality and avoid toxic screen quality for better mental health and nourishment of toddlers during early childhood education. This approach should be followed throughout the family to create a healthy environment for toddlers to grow and learn.

Guidelines for good screen time

Introducing age-appropriate interactive e-books and applications is an excellent way to begin developing healthy screen time. Trying multiple language e-books will expand the learning spectrum for toddlers. It is to be noted that a child has to experience both physical books and e-books for balanced healthy learning since both of them have a distinctive way of educating toddlers.

To this date, there is no sufficient evidence that supports the narrative of introducing technology at a young age for an enhanced child’s development; however, with evolving technology and growing screens everywhere, this situation can only be used to the best of parents or caregivers’ ability to impart knowledge and entertainment to kids in a wholesome and non-destructive way.

Digital media can be introduced to the child by considering the family’s mental health and wellness. Healthy screen time can be developed collectively by considering essential skills such as emotional regulation and time management. Your child must be able to communicate what they are feeling and should be able to handle what is on digital media. They should also easily transition from consuming digital content to other daily chores and activities.

Motivating older siblings to mentor younger children’s screen time can help improve learning experiences. Prioritizing family screen time over the toddler’s individual use will enhance family bonds.

As a parent, it is essential to understand that at some point, your toddler will be exposed to new and unapproved content. Having an open conversation someday about this situation will encourage them to think critically.

Cover image by Photo by Marcial Comeron

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