Parenting Tips for screen time management

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Screen time is an inescapable reality of modern childhood, with children of every age spending hours in front of iPads, smartphones and televisions even as young and 2 years old.

That’s not always a bad thing: Educational apps and TV shows are great ways for children to sharpen their developing brains and hone their communication skills—not to mention the break these gadgets provide parents.

But tread carefully: A number of research and studies have connected certain delayed cognitive development in children with the extended exposure to electronic media.

Young age with long-term consequences

When very small children get hooked on tablets and smartphones, says, Dr. Aric Sigman, an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society and a Fellow of Britain’s Royal Society of Medicine, they can unintentionally cause permanent damage to their still-developing brains. Too much screen time too soon, he says, “is the very thing impeding the development of the abilities that parents are so eager to foster through the tablets. The ability to focus, to concentrate, to lend attention, to sense other people’s attitudes and communicate with them, to build a large vocabulary—all those abilities are harmed.”

Put more simply, parents who jump to screen time believing that they are giving their children an educational edge may actually be doing significantly more harm than good—and they need to manage future screen time in an age-appropriate manner.

Early childhood is when, children brains develop quickly and are particularly sensitive to the environment around them. This is a critical period, because the changes that happen in the brain during these first tender years become the permanent foundation upon which all later brain functions are built. For normal development to happen during the critical period, children needs specific stimuli from the environment – the real time environment.

Unfortunately these essential stimuli are not found on today’s screens. When young children spend too much time in front of a screen and do not get the required stimuli from the real world, their development in the early years becomes stunted. And not just for a while, its results can affect them forever.

Social Emotional Development

Early years for young children prove to be the most impressionable times of their lives. It is here that they develop socio-emotional skills. It is during these years that their young mind learns to empathize with others, take in nonverbal cues while talking to friends, and learn how to read the hundreds of unspoken signs—facial expression, tone of voice, and more—that add color and depth to their real-world relationships.

So if our young children are spending most of their time in front of an iPad instead of talking and playing with other children, their empathetic abilities to interact with their peers will be dulled, possibly for good. This would prove as a hindrance in their most important skill – Socio-Emotional skills.

Let us learn to BALANCE

Don’t trash those screen devices for good!

Despite the dangers that overexposure to screens can pose for young brains, there are a lot of benefits to letting young children use technology. Once your child is over the age of two, feel free to allow limited screen time—think an hour, max, of playing with tablets and iPhones each day—to help develop coordination, hone quick reactions, and even sharpen language skills.

As with all the other toys and tools available to our developing children, smartphone use should stay in moderation, and never replace it for human interaction and the real world.

Power off regularly to help your child understand the clear boundaries between the virtual world and the real one.

As parents you are the change agents in the lives of our children hence you can help them self-regulate their screen time for their better future.

There is a simple 4 point Essential agreement that parents can use for screen time management for their children.

  • Acceptable –Non Acceptable Times of screen usage- Parents need to clearly lay down their expectations about screen time usage limits. For example Acceptable Screen time only during the set schedule and Non acceptable during family time like at the dinner table.
  • Setting a schedule: Parents can choose to set a specific weekly duration and time when kids are allowed to play on their iPad or watch a show. Like Funny Fridays can be a day for you and your child to use a gadget for an uninterrupted period of 1 hour just before going to play. This helps as it is the end of a school week and does not interfere in the weekly routine of a young child.
  • Select 1 Binge day: Consider choosing a day or a few days of the week on which technology is allowed. Have activities available to distract your child from the technology, especially if your binge days are on the weekend. Make sure you’ve got playdates, sports events, visits to the park or a family game night planned. Brainstorm a list of things to do when they’re bored, so their default isn’t just to turn on a screen.
  • Justify their use
    When your children asks to jump on to a piece of technology, ask “why?” One of the most important things we can do as parents is to ensure that when children are using screens, they’re using them for a reason—that they’re not just turning them on out of habit. Asking why encourages children to think of other things they can do on the device—like making a movie or playing an active video game—that might make you more inclined to say yes. This strategy can also open up a conversation about why we use screens, and it gives you an opportunity to suggest a different activity if your child is simply bored.