When they were a baby, their daily routine consisted of beneficial baby activities such as stories, tummy time, and sensory play. And while these did not completely disappear well into the toddler phase, another item unexpectedly made it into their daily activities: the gadget.
Let’s face it. It’s challenging to totally remove gadgets from the kids’ daily living. Gadgets are everywhere and they’re bound to come across them sooner or later. The best solution is to set screen time rules.
But before anything else, let’s clarify one thing. This article explores screen time for toddlers around 2 years old and below. Babies and toddlers below 24 months should only have minimum access to screens and should only be exposed during video calls where there is interaction.
Now that we have that out of the way, here’s everything you need to know about screen time rules and regulations.
Why do we need to regulate screen time?
If we can name one stage of your child’s life as the most crucial one, it’s hands down the first 1,000 days. This begins in-utero and continues until just before your baby turns 2 years old. During this stage, so much of your child’s development happens, from brain and muscles to emotions and social skills.
Because so much development happens during this critical stage, the first 1,000 days is often believed to create lifelong outcomes, many of which are irreversible.
What does screen time have to do with this? It’s very important for babies and young toddlers to have the time and space to explore and experience the world using their senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. But gadgets limit the sensory experience and interaction that they should have, and for this reason, kids under 24 months should not have screen time at all.
Toddlers 2 years old and above can have screen time, but it should be limited and highly regulated. Most of their daily routines should revolve around physical and stimulating activities as their minds and bodies are still developing.
Why is screen time harmful?
Screen time, while unavoidable, does not do much for a toddler’s development, unlike physical activities, unstructured play, and live interaction. Worse, poor quality screen time can lead to lifelong issues such as obesity, behavioral problems, violence, and irregular sleeping habits.
However, you can prevent these issues from happening with proper — and consistent — screen time rules and close monitoring.
How much screen time for toddlers is okay?
As with almost everything parenting-related, there’s often no one-size-fits-all approach for raising toddlers. But the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend one hour a day of high quality and monitored screen time for little children ages 2 to 5.
As they grow up and develop a keener discernment of rules, you may want to develop your own screen time regulations that will fit your child and your family.
How can you make the most out of screen time?
As mentioned above, screen time does not have to be bad. Avoid poor quality material, such as videos depicting bad manners and violence, and always make sure that your child is only watching high quality material.
You can do this by previewing videos, games, and apps before exposing your child to them. Also, don’t forget to use the parenting controls of the apps and gadgets that you own.
What are examples of high quality screen time material? While they should not replace music, books, and games, your child can benefit from watching interactive stories, musicals, and educational shows. To make the most out of these videos, be there while your child is watching to discuss what’s happening and answer their questions.
Screen time does not have to be passive! You can tell stories with your child using an app; this way, it’s not the app that’s telling the story but you. You can play interactive games with your child using an app; this way, your child plays with you, not with the app.
Also, remember to be consistent. You can’t let your toddler use a gadget for one hour today and give them two hours the next day because they are throwing tantrums. This just teaches them bad behavior. Be consistent — even when it means inconvenience on your part.
Finally, don’t forget to plan playtime and physical, unstructured activities for your toddler for the whole day. Even with high-quality and interactive videos, games, and apps around, their best teacher — and best playmate — remains to be you. Bonus: your toddler might enjoy playtime so much they just might forget about gadgets!