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How much is too much screen time?

Most people are aware that too much screen time can have negative impacts on young children. Human to human interactions are critical to the development of language and social skills. Because screen time does not involve personal interactions, too much can delay the progression of those skills.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends NO screen time at all for children under 18 months of age. For children above 18 months, the AAP recommends that families engage in screen time with their children and only watch high-quality programming. They suggest no more than an hour per day for ages 2 – 5. Research shows that children can be over-stimulated by fast-paced images on a screen. This can increase the likelihood of attention problems over time.

"The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends NO

screen time at all

for children under 18 months of age."

Many children use educational computer programs. Beware. Often children are simply pressing keys to get responses from the program without regard for the “lesson” being presented. Sometimes the wrong response makes a funnier sound than the correct one, thus encouraging children to make mistakes. When children are pressing the correct keys, they have often simply memorized the right answers rather than truly understanding the content. Playing face-to-face learning games with you has much greater value.

Many families are concerned because during the COVID-19 pandemic, screen time is on the rise. If this is true in your home, you are not alone. Try to avoid the “guilt trip.” Instead, take some time to evaluate the use of screens in your home and determine where changes might be made. Consider the use of cell phones, tablets, computers, and televisions. Below are some strategies to try:

1. Set limits for the use of screens for the entire family. Some devices have this feature built into the operating system.

2. Find some activities to replace screen time. Examples include: --- - reading or storytelling. (Make up stories or tell about your own childhood.)

- Play charades.

- Play board games. These can support skills such as color recognition or counting.

- Play sorting activities. Use toys, silverware, clothing, canned foods, or the like.

- Go outside. Nothing beats fresh air and exercise.

- Cook. (Try anything from making a PB&J to baking a cake.)

- Do art projects (watercolors, homemade play dough, cutting up magazines for a collage, homemade finger paint).

3. Be a role model. Avoid being on your phone in front of your child.

4. Borrow books from the library.

5. Involve your child in some household chores. Make it fun! (“Let’s clean out your closet and find clothes you’ve outgrown!” “Let’s wash the car.”)

6. Give your child his own responsibilities. For example, preschoolers can feed the pet, set the table, put away silverware, fold laundry, and make their own beds. No, their work won’t be perfect. That is okay! Make them feel proud.

7. Be selective when it comes to TV programs for your child. Avoid the news and scary videos. Look for quality programs that match your child’s interests.

8. Choose PBS Kids, Common Sense Media, or Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. Also look for live streams such as an Eagle Cam (watching a nest) or the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

9. Watch programs WITH your child. Discuss it. This will fill the language and social skills gap.

10. Encourage your child’s imagination. Ideas include: dress up clothes, puppets, plain wooden blocks, empty cardboard boxes – large or small. (Build with them, make a car, make a hide-away.)

11. Connect with family and friends using FaceTime or Caribu (a free app).

Remember, these are unusual times we are living in. Screen time sometimes allows us to get things done with young children around. Planning ahead and having a "Fun Box" of independent activities can help. Just do your best!

Diane Postman, Curriculum Specialist

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