Technology today is unavoidable. Screen time among adults and children has become increasingly accepted and used. TVs, tablets, phones, and computers are a staple in many households and schools as learning environments improve their advancements in technology in order to provide a better education. But how much screen time is too much? Children, especially young children, are susceptible to negative effects of too much screen time.
Technology is used often as a babysitter. Screen time allows children to quiet themselves and become immersed in a TV show or game. While many parents appreciate the quiet time, they usually agree that their children are better off participating in activities that don’t involve tech. If young children spend hours staring at a screen, the effects are not only physical- poor posture, lack of muscle definition and damage to eyesight are only a few of the negative, physical side effects.
Cognitive side effects are among the top-ranked reasons as to why screen time should be avoided with young children. Too much technology and sitting idle can lead to underdeveloped social skills as well as self-confidence. Tech may help children solve problems, but an overload of screen time can result in poorly developed academic skills, social skills, discipline, and self-confidence.
Interactive play outside, with other children, and away from tech and screens is some of the most beneficial (and free!) learning tools available to your young child. There, they can learn how to interact with other children, learn to communicate, problem solve and boost their confidence as they experience their likes and wants in free-play.
How much is too much then? Infants and very young children should have little to no screen time, based on the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Infant screen time should be kept as minimal as possible. At such a young age, babies need to learn how to move, grasp items, recognize faces, and become vocal. Screen time can stifle a baby’s progress as they learn and grow at a rapid pace at this age. School-aged children can spend anywhere from 2 to over 6 hours per day experiencing tech and screen time at school and at home. The limits for screen time as a child matures are less-strict, especially since they are exposed to it in almost every aspect of their life. A key factor to remember when it comes to screen time is the quality of the content. Is it an educational game or program? Will it teach the alphabet, how to read, or learn different numbers or words? These types of screen content can support and encourage the continuation of your child’s education.
With the rise of technology in home and school, avoiding screen time is unavoidable. Parents can set limits at an early age and be responsible for the amount of screen time their child receives. Young babies and infants are better off experiencing their world around them without the interference of technology. As they mature, they will have their interaction with screens and tech, and parents can make sure their interactions are limited and educational.
Michelle Dell’Aquila, M.A. is a licensed child therapist who is currently the director of CDA, a program geared for infants to 5-year-olds providing developmental assessments, advice to parents and for teachers in schools.