Smartphone and Tablet Screen Time: Good or Bad for Kids?
Tablets and smartphones are great gadgets for making kids busy and quiet, especially for harassed parents who has more urgent things to do than attending to their kids. They can also be a great bribery tool. Parents use it to make kids behave, sit quietly in a car ride, get into a stroller, or even go into the potty. But there are some parenting experts who say that using screen time as bribery or enticements may have trade-offs.
Parenting gurus, psychologists and even advice columnists are wary about the effects of iPads, iPhones, Androids and other gadgets with touchscreen on children under 3 who use them. They believe that screen time may have a negative effect on children’s developing brain.
But the tendency to be alarmist usually happens when a new form of media becomes popular with children. When video games came out, pundits are afraid that these might make kids violent, and TV was once blamed for harming kids’ visions. But are worries about touchscreens warranted? What could possibly be the bad effects of young children playing with tablets and smartphones? Or does it actually have benefits, contrary to the conventional wisdom of the experts?
Because tablets and smartphones are still new, pediatric research still do not have a lot of data to make a clear and consistent stand on the issue. Also note that some experts combine watching TV with interactive smartphone and tablet play as screen time. They are different, as watching TV is a much more passive activity than playing with touch screens.
Guidelines for Kids using tablets and phones
To minimize the harmful effects and maximize the benefits, here are some guidelines for your child’s use of interactive screen time:
- Make screen time an interaction between you and your toddler or young child. Make it a shared three-dimensional experience. The brain development and language development happens when you talk about what is happening on screen, similar to reading a book to your child. Make it a dialog, discuss important concepts, exchange ideas, and relate what your child is learning to real life. “Humans learn best when they are actively involved with the material.”
- Use the build-in parental controls in the device, if present. It’s a good idea to set it high, and let your child go to you to adjust the restriction. This will be an opportunity for you to talk with him about what he is doing online.
- Never let your toddler be occupied with screens when they are outdoors.
- Don’t use screens as silencer or pacifier.
- Ebooks that read to your child should not give you a pass on your educational responsibility to him.
- Choose media that is geared towards children.
- Too much screen time means less time for other activities like actively playing with other children or reading. As in most things, moderation and balance is the key.
- If possible, limit your child’s screen time to educational material that can still be fun (here are some suggestions for educational apps for babies and toddler). A 2014 Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York study examined infants 0-3 years old that used touch-screen devices to determine if their use was of any educational benefit to infants and toddlers. Thestudy showed that children who played non-educational games using touch-screen devices had lower verbal scores upon testing.
- For older kids, make them play apps that are educational yet fun and even make earning a game like Duolingo (for learning a foreign language), Khan Academy (videos for learning almost anything), or King of Math (learning math).
- Interactive media engages the brain more than passive media like TV. So if the alternative use of interactive screen time is watching TV, encourage your child to choose playing with the smartphone or tablet instead.
- The AAP prescribes entertainment screen time be limited to 2 hours a day for children ages 3 to 18. For 2 year olds or younger, note at all. However, the more important thing to be monitored than time is the kind and quality of content and your involvement with your child.
- Parents and children should work together to decide how much time screen time is ideal, and make good choices about what media to consume.
- Create rules for using smart phones and tablets – even if it’s generous – and make sure your child follows it. For example, one hour of reading or playing sports in exchange for one hour of screen, only one hour on school days or three hours on weekends, etc.
- Your child models your behavior. If he sees you using your iPhone or tablet too much, he will probably do the same thing. Also, show that your child is your priority over screens by spending more time with her, or by talking with her when she arrives after school.
- For teens, teach them or give them rules on appropriate online behavior.
- Encourage your child to socially interact with others not only digitally, but also outside the screen. Sourcer: raisesmartkid.com