The Pro’s and Con’s of Young Children and Screen Time
When to introduce young children (ages 1-5 years old) to “screen time” has been a controversial topic for many years. (*For this article “screen time” refers to television, smartphones, and computers; with more of an emphasis on smartphones/computers). There are many valid reasons parents either choose to introduce their children to technology at a young age or wait until their children are older before allowing them screen time. Let’s examine some of the Pro’s and Con’s of young children and screen time.
- When young children’s brains are still developing they learn best by social interactions. Independent screen time can limit these social interactions. Dan Siegel of Mindful Awareness Research Center thinks this may impede language, social and emotional development. A 2014 study by UCLA’s Children’s Digital Media Center suggests that when screen time limits face-to-face interaction, kids’ social skills may be negatively affected, and this may blind them from understanding the emotions of other people.
- Babies and toddlers learn better with materials they can touch, versus what they see on a screen. Exploring concepts in three dimensions is better than two dimensions for cognitive development.
- Doctors are concerned that overexposure to screen time has an impact on attention span and concentration.
- Children learn how to use technology at a young age and begin to develop their life-long technology skills.
- Tablets and smartphones have countless apps to make learning a fun and motivating experience.
- When used with an adult, screen time can be interactive and promote cognitive and social development.
As a parent it can be a challenge to find a balance between your beliefs, current research and recommendations, and the needs of your child. When young children use smartphones or computers, here are some recommendations:
- Make screen time a social time between you and your child where you can discuss what is happening and ask questions.
- For independent time, give your child interactive and educational apps to use.
- Set guidelines for your child including time limits and specific apps/websites/programs that they use.
- Model appropriate screen time behavior. If your child feels your own screen time is a priority over social interactions, they too will show similar behaviors.
Currently there are no commonly used guidelines as to when to introduce children to screen time. However, it is agreed up that technology can be a valuable learning tool when used appropriately for children of all ages.
Whether you decide to introduce your child to technology at a young age or at a later time, feel confident that you are doing what is in the best interest for your own child.
For recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics: