Balancing your child’s screen time

In the digital age, screen time is an increasingly-discussed topic among parents and early childhood experts. Between growing concerns about screen addiction and the emphasis placed on outdoor play, it’s easy to write off children’s use of tablets, computers and phones.

But for parents and children’s living in a world that relies upon screens for communication, education and entertainment, cutting them off completely just isn’t realistic. Plus, shaming parents for allowing their children to use screens is also not productive.

Screen time can be part of a child’s healthy lifestyle if it’s balanced with other activities that are key to a child’s development. Here are some of our guidelines for your young child’s screen time:

1. Encourage unstructured playtime

Unstructured playtime allows children to use their creativity, socialize with others, stay active and more! Support their play by playing outdoors with them, setting up play-dates or creating arts and crafts projects with them. Unstructured playtime is a crucial part of childhood development.

2. Encourage constructive screen time

Not all screen time is bad! Lots of kids’ TV shows, apps and games are made to help children’s development. Children can benefit from age-appropriate content which helps them learn language, math and other skills. Even movies and cartoons can help children develop their language skills and start to understand storytelling.

3. Set limits

Setting some type of limits on screen time will help you establish a healthy balance. You can create rules about how long your child can use screens, what kind of content they can access and what time of day they are allowed to use screens. The Mayo Clinic advises that children under 2 years have no screen time, and that screen time be limited to one hour of high-quality programming for children 2-5 years old.

4. Model responsible screen time

As adults who check emails, make grocery lists and scroll through social media, it’s easy for us to get addicted to screens. Your children learn and copy behavior from you as they grow, so it’s important to model a balanced use of screen time when enforcing theirs. Practice what you preach!

Want to learn more about screen time and other technology issues related to children? Check out our partners at Common Sense Media!

All content in this article, including any advice or commentary from Southwest Human Development staff and/or others, should be considered an opinion and is provided for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for medical or other professional advice, diagnosis or treatment.  Always seek the direct advice of your own trusted professional with any questions or concerns you may have regarding the child/ren in your care.  Southwest Human Development does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, products, procedures or other information that may be mentioned in this article.  You may contact Southwest Human Development’s Birth to Five Helpline at 1-877-705-KIDS (5437) to speak with one of our early childhood professionals for personalized assistance.  Birth to Five Helpline specialists are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.