Your four-year-old child has suddenly disappeared to a quiet corner in the house. When you go to look, you notice that he/she has unlocked your smartphone using your secret password and is playing a game.
As the screens around us have multiplied, so have our reasons to give our children more and more screen time. But as concerned parents, we often wonder how much screen time is too much at this age?
Doctors say up to one hour a day is enough for early preschoolers. If your child is tapping and flicking on the tablet like a pro or staring at the television for hours together, he/she is probably spending too much time in front of the screen. It can negatively impact his/ her growth and development.
Here are some of the common concerns to keep in mind that over-exposure to electronic media can cause.
- Higher risk of being overweight or obese
- Behavioral risks including short attention span
- Difficult sleeping
- Lack of social skills and hinders emotional development
- Screen addiction can be very difficult to break
While we argue about the pros and cons of gadgets and technology, the fact is that kids are surrounded by them and there is no denying that we want them to grow up tech-savvy.
While screen time is inevitable, striking a balance between the real and virtual world is vital. Here are ways we can try to reduce the number of time children spend on their devices.
- Lead by example and reduce your own use of laptops, TV and smartphones.
- Limit screen time for your child to one hour total screen time (including TV, computer, tablets and smartphones)
- Encourage them to play screen-free and with other kids
- Setup parental control.This is especially important if your child is browsing the internet and is exposed to all kinds of content online which can be violent or age-inappropriate. You can also limit the viewing time using these tools.
- Talk to your child about what he/she is watching, ask questions and get involved. Also, talk to your kid about why restricting time is important.
- Tell them about house rules and set clear consequences in advance. Screen-free bedrooms to avoid sleep disorders
- Avoid TV and gadgets during meal times
- Spare some time to do some activity together with your child everyday. It can be taking a walk or reading a book, depending on the time you have at hand.
- Provide a stimulating and fun environment offering a variety of toys and activities, so that they are not tempted to go back to screens.
Although it is becoming increasingly difficult to limit screen time for kids, it is a battle worth fighting. Once you have a plan to reduce screen time, discuss it with your family and start implementing it.