Katherine Guthrie, DO, Pediatrician at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare
Children’s environment can influence their development. Knowing these positive and negative influences can help parents make the best decisions for their children. The debate of how much time a child should spend in front of a screen, such as an iPad or television, is very controversial. It’s hard to stray away from screens since they are everywhere! Here is a good go-to guide for the use of screen time during childhood.
From birth to 18 months: It is recommended to avoid screen time, unless chatting with grandparents or long-distance friends on video chat. The first several months are a significant time of mental development and bonding. At this age children’s exposure social interaction, physical movement and in-person vocalization are important.
Beginning at 18 months to two years of age: It is okay to start introducing screen time, as long as it is high quality. A great tip with this is to watch it with them so they can fully understand. This is an important time for language development, so make sure to continue having conversations with your baby outside of screen time. Reading a book together is a great way to help language development.
Children ages two to five years old: Limit to one hour a day or less and explain what they are seeing and how it relates to the world around them. Children at this age are more mobile and are working on their physical development. Limitation of screen time allows for lots of play in order for this to occur.
Children ages six and older: Parents should determine what is best for their child regarding the use of screen time. It is important to include at least an hour of physical activity a day and allow for eight to 12 hours of sleep a night. Parents should consider designating “zones” to be screen-free such as the dinner table and bedroom.
For all ages, screen time should end at least one hour prior to bedtime to allow a healthy sleep cycle.
Parents also need to try and remember to stay off of their device too. Some fun indoor activities other than screens could be painting or putting a puzzle together. Remember, at the end of the day children take in more from experiences in the real world and from their interactions with you than anything else!