Nowadays it’s very difficult to regulate the amount of screen time for our kids, especially with our busy lifestyle and when entertainment is readily available to us with a touch of a button.
I think its safe to say that a lot of kids as young as 2 yrs old are getting addicted to screen time, as a result of which, are developing behavior and attention problems. Excessive amounts of screen time have proved to cause obesity, affect eyesight and also affect their sleeping habits by disturbing their circadian rhythm.
According to AAP (american academy of pediatrics) guidelines:
- Avoid digital media for toddlers younger than 18 to 24 months other than video chatting.
- For children 18 to 24 months, watch digital media with them because they learn from watching and talking with you.
- Limit screen use for preschool children, ages 2 to 5, to just 1 hour a day of high-quality programming. Again co-viewing is best when possible and for young children they learn best when they are re-taught in the real world what they just learned through a screen
I have to admit, I was one of them who would give my child un-monitored and un-regulated amount of screen time just to have some me-time. Now, I am not saying media is a bad thing, nor am I opposed to quality screen time. In fact, my kid has learned a lot from media than I could not have taught him on my own. But I started getting concerned when I noticed that my normally calm, sweet child was getting angry and aggressive when I would turn off the tv or take the phone away from him.
That was when I really started to consider limiting his screen time. It was hard at first with all the tantrums and crying, but with a lot of persistence, we got down to less than an hour of screen time everyday.
I would like to add a disclaimer here that the tips that I mention are something that worked for me and my kid. It may or may not work for you but its worth trying them out.
Limit the time in chunks:
The first thing I did was to not give him his screen time all at once. I divided the 1 hour he got into four 15-minute intervals. By doing this whenever he started giving me a hard time or when I really needed him off my back for some time I could give him his 15 mins of screen time. Let them know beforehand that it will only be for the allotted time and be strict with that by keeping a timer on hand.
Keep educational toys on hand:
I know, I know. all the toys in the world are not enough to keep a toddler busy. but it will keep them occupied at least for sometime. Provide them with fun toys like puzzles, arts and craft projects. If you run out of toys , let them explore around the house or collect rocks and paint on them. Don’t stress about the mess.
Be more present:
Get more involved with your child’s activities. If they like painting paint with them, read to them more often , involve them when you cook or clean. My little one loves making scrambled eggs these days, so I let him mix and get butter and stuff from the refrigerator.
No screen time before bed time:
Never give your child screen time before his/her bedtime. It messes up their circadian rhythm. The content from the media can keep them riled up and interfere with their sleep schedule.
Practice what you preach:
Take this as an opportunity and limit mindless scrolling for yourself as well. It’s a known fact that children copy what they see. If they see you glued to your phone or tv, they may also want to do that. So strive to be a better role model for your child.
Don’t use technology as an emotional pacifier:
Media can be very effective in keeping kids calm and quiet, but it should not be the only way they learn to calm down. Children need to be taught how to handle their emotions. They need to be taught that its ok to be angry, sad or bored. Teach them ways to channel their emotions in a healthy manner.
Most importantly, be persistent and stick to the rules that you have set. It can get frustrating and you will find yourself giving in to your child’s whims at times and that’s ok but don’t make it a habit. With time and patience, children will find ways to entertain themselves and will not depend solely on screen time.