Children under 5 should not get more than one hour a day of screen time

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Limit screen time for your children below 5 as it leads to mental and developmental issues later in life.

Just about every parent will admit to letting the kids watch TV, kill time on the iPad or play video games for fun. Don’t feel guilty, parents. We all do it. But there has to be a limit to screen time for infants, or children in general. 

Firstly, you need to know the impact of letting your child use devices at such a young age. Research has shown that smartphones and tablets can cause mental health issues in kids from as young as two. In fact, many paediatricians advise against screen time due to the negative effects of electronic devices.

But if you really have to… then the key to allowing screen time is setting a limit.

How much screen time is acceptable? 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), young children should not spend more than an hour a day watching television and videos or playing computer games. Infants less than one-year-old should not be exposed to electronic screens at all.

screen time for infants

Excessive screen time does more damage than good.

Children under five must spend less time sitting and watching screens, but also spend less sedentary time sitting in strollers and car seats, according to the recommendations. In addition, they need better quality sleep and more time for active play in order to grow up healthy.

Your child’s brain grows fastest during his first three years of life, and he learns best when he uses all five senses. The experience of holding an apple, smelling it, tasting it, and listening to a real person name it is much richer for your child than seeing a picture of an apple on a screen and hearing the word come out of nowhere.

What do the experts say?

WHO recommends that infants should be physically active several times a day, particularly through floor-based play. For babies who are not yet mobile, they should spend at least 30 minutes a day in a prone position, or “tummy time,” spread throughout the day while awake.

Children between one and five years old should spend at least 3 hours a day in various types of physical activity spread throughout the day, WHO suggested, adding that more is better.

The effects of too much screen time have led to problems such as childhood obesity, delayed development, poor language and communication skills and behavioural problems.

While we know it is impossible to totally eliminate screen time for our children, we can control the amount of time they are spending at the screen and incorporate more physical “play” in their daily activities.

screen time for infants

Children need to “play” more and spend less time with gadgets. | Source: Pixabay

Strategies for managing screen time

  1. Set time limits
    Aim for less than an hour a day, or think about screen time per week instead of per day. On sick or rainy days, you might watch a movie together. On more active days, you can have no screen time at all. Permit screen use at key moments, like during your morning shower or evening meal prep.
  2. Choose age-appropriate content
    When you do allow a little screen time, choose age-appropriate content that reinforces learning. There are several programs and apps that are made specifically for toddlers and children.
  3. Talk with your child
    Share screen time with your child as much as possible and chat about what you’re seeing and hearing. Asking questions and engaging with your child brings the most benefits.
  4. Turn off the background TV
    Time with the TV on in the background still counts as screen time. Most babies and toddlers are perfectly happy to putter with books or toys. If you need some entertainment, put on music or an audiobook instead.
  5. Keep devices out of bedrooms
    Out of sight is out of mind. Set boundaries earlier so that as your child grows, they are not dependent on it.
  6. Be a good role model
    Your children are watching you. Even at a young age, they are observing you, so put down your phone during meals and one-on-one time.

Source: The Straits Times

Read also: Smartphones and tablets can affect mental health in children as young as two

Written by

Africa parent