Technology is everywhere, and we are all constantly using it in some way, shape, or form. It is important to recognize that too much screen time can be detrimental, especially for a child.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, any child under the age of 18 months should not engage in screen time. Then, up until the age of 5, it is encouraged that a child’s screen time be limited to one hour per day. If a child is on a device past these guidelines, every additional 30 minutes of screen time increases a child’s risk for an expressive language delay by nearly 50% (Cowan, 2018).
This statistic is astounding and may startle you if you are a parent who allows your child to use a device more often than you would like to admit. Let’s discuss why too much screen time can negatively impact your child’s development and what the alternatives are. Screens can become addictive, and children can quickly get too attached. Not only that, but screens can reinforce negative behavior. Giving your child a device whenever they are screaming, crying, or upset to calm them down is an easy out that can cause behavioral issues. You are reinforcing this bad behavior, and your child may grow to learn that the best way to request screen time is by throwing a tantrum. To avoid this, give your child screen time when they are behaving well- just don’t forget the guidelines on how long they should use it (Cowan, 2018).
All children at some point are going to behave poorly in public, and while it is extremely tempting to hand over a device, make this your last possible resort! Try giving your child different items to calm them down; this can include a snack, book, or toy they don’t see very often (Cowan, 2018). It can be challenging to find an effective item/object to give your child when you are in public, so keep a little bag of goodies with you to use as alternatives to a device. At home, you have more options to pull from; you can sing to your child and play music, read a book out loud, play with a toy, etc. These alternatives are much more language-enriching and can foster your child’s creativity and imagination.
If your child does use a device frequently, recognize that there is a difference between passive screen time and active screen time. If your child is on a device, facilitate active screen time with them! Rather than having them sit and watch a video for long periods, have them play an interactive game. If they are watching a video, sit down with them and talk about what they are watching, the characters, the plot, etc. By making it a two-way conversation, you are creating a richer experience. You can use this time with your child to work on vocabulary, turn-taking, topic maintenance, and more. It is not a crime to allow your child screen time- just use it in a healthy, beneficial way!
Cowan, Jasna. (2018). Help families find a screen time balance. The ASHA Leader. Retrieved from https://leader.pubs.asha.org/do/10.1044/help-families-find-a-screen-time-balance/full/#:~:text=The%20American%20Academy%20of%20Pediatrics,language%20delays%20by%2049%20percent.