Children and screen time is an emotive subject. If you look at the media there appears to be two distinct camps, one which is wholly against screen time and longing for the halcyon days before iPads, and another that happily say they allow their children screen time.
I must say that public views tend to be in the former, perhaps fueled by some perceived guilt. After all, there’s plenty of media personalities sat on couches during the morning newspaper review who will declare they’ll never let their children have a tablet around a restaurant table (yes, Michelle Dewberry I’m talking about you – trust me, having your nephew and niece for a weekend away is not the same as having a kid 24/7. If it keeps them quiet and entertained while you’re waiting to order, it’s none of your business.).
As you might have guessed, I’m probably more towards the second camp. Frankly, I’m of the view that comparing the modern world and parenting with yesteryear is a dangerous one. This is true whether it’s talking about childcare or education. The world has changed and so must we.
Technology is here to stay and in my humble opinion children are better off learning how to use it and respect it early on, with the caveat that all things should be in moderation. In fact there’s research that shows children and young adults now are much more able to multitask because they’ve grown up around technology.
Should your children be attached to a screen and never look up? No. At the same time, should they be out playing sport all the time and not pick up a book, no. Doing one activity more than another isn’t healthy. It also isn’t healthy for anyone to be glued to their screen. I think many of us adults could do with reducing our screen time more than many children.
The general rule of thumb from most professionals is no screen time under the age of 18 months and no more than an hour a day for two and three year olds.
Laying my cards on the table here but our son, who is now three, has a tablet. I have no issue with this. His favourite viewing is CBeebies and he loves games and learning apps. He likes it on in the morning (he’s an early riser so he might watch it while I get breakfast sorted). He also likes a some time once he’s home from nursery. Occasionally, it’s the only way we can get him to sit at a table long enough to finish a meal.
Is this more than I would ideally like? Sometimes. Do I think it’s a problem? No. He flits in between games on his tablet, and playing with a huge amount of traditional toys and more advanced learning. He loves puzzles. He also likes books. He’s incredibly active and can spend hours running about or playing football.
So how do you ensure you balance screen time so technology is a useful tool. Here are some screen time guidelines:
Watch with your child
Watch your shows or play games together, interacting with your child and whats happening. Comment on the action taking place and ask your child questions.
Choose what they watch
We are ultimately CBeebies, although we will watch limited amounts of Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol. I love CBeebies as there’s always something to learn, from how dishwashers work on Do You Know to signing in Something Special. I also like the fact that programmes are usually only 20 minutes long at the most, so you can watch one thing and move onto play.
Also, make sure you watch an episode or try a game first to make sure it’s age appropriate.
Download learning apps
We have a Kindle for Kids which is super easy to navigate and means it’s easy to find apps and games for your age range. We like to play ones that encourage leaning like matching shapes, colours, words and problem solving. If your child is really unwilling to part with their tablet, switching to some interactive learning rather than a cartoon might be preferable.
Schedule non screen activities
We like to do one activity a day which means screens are out of view. That sounds easy, but given that you may be playing in your living room or have a phone visible you might need to think about this. Walk to the shops, go to the park, kick a ball about the garden or do some drawing in your kitchen. We are lucky that our son has a decent sized bedroom so we an hang out there and play, even if we have a play date friend. Whatever you do, hide your phone!