Should you let your child use your mobile phone or tablet? How do you prevent them from getting “glued” to screens? Every parent struggles with these questions. Here are the answers.
When little ones see their daddies and mummies using their smartphones and tablets, they are naturally curious! They might wonder to themselves, “What is daddy or mummy doing? Why are they looking at that screen instead of me!”. Within moments, they might make a grab for the phone or tablet. What should you do as a parent? Should you give your child your device? While apps on these devices have educational benefits, too much screen time can lead to eye strain and other health problems. It’s best to delay introducing your child to devices.
That’s why, it is important to monitor the amount of screen time your young child has. According to Centre for Holistic Initiatives for Learning & Development (CHILD), children under 18 months old should not be allowed any passive viewing screen time (passive viewing refers to screen viewing without adult co-viewing and interaction) as the early years are a critical window for children’s cognitive development. Children between 18 and 36 months should have no more than 1 hour of screen time each day. While older kids can have some screen time, do still set a limit and watch what media they consume.
As a parent, you want to set restrictions to ensure that screen time is not just education but also healthy. This means establishing some ground rules on the use of screen time in the family and sticking to them! Here’s how you can delay and limit screen time for your child.
This is the very first thing a parent needs to do before handing over the TV remote or any electronic device with a screen to your child. Your child should know how much screen time he’s allowed when it is allowed, and where it is allowed.
For example, if your child is 3 years old, he can only have, at most, 1 hour of screen time a day. You could let him spend 30 minutes watching TV in the morning and then another 30 minutes in the afternoon on the tablet.
Setting rules apply to older kids you have at home, too. If they are old enough, explain to them that too much screen time for kids leads to health problems.
Once you’ve set these rules and explained them to your kid, make sure they’re enforced consistently. It might be tempting to give in to your child’s tears and pleas to play games for another ten minutes, but you’ll find yourself losing in the war each time you give in.
If you have grandparents or a helper looking after your child, make sure that they’re aware of the rules and enlist their help in enforcing the rules strictly.
Use technology to your advantage. These days, many devices come with parental-control settings which helps parents monitor and control the amount of screen time their child is exposed to. Your child will no longer be able to use the electronic device once the allocated time limit you’ve set for him is used up.
Whether it’s a TV programme or a game, parents should be involved as much as possible. You should always know what your kid is watching, or what game he’s playing.
A child needs at least 3 hours of physical activity in a day. Children love to play, so encourage your child to go outside and play. The best way to get your child to turn away from the screen willingly is to offer an equally fun, exciting activity.
Bring your child out for a walk in the park or organise a picnic at the beach. Introduce your child to games you used to play as a kid such as hopscotch or marbles. If it’s in the middle of the day when the sun is too hot to be outside, try playing classic board games like Monopoly or Clue, or read a book to your child.
You can also bring your child out on playdates with other children so that he gets to learn how to make friends and interact with others. Let them know that there is a lot of fun in other activities, and not just in front of a screen.
Remember that you are the parent, and no means no. Stay firm when it comes to controlling your child’s screen time.
Children are creative and full of imagination. Sure, the little one might kick up a fuss in the beginning, but it won’t be long before they find something to amuse themselves with once they know they are not getting any screen time.
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Read these next:
1) Centre for Holistic Initiatives for Learning & Development (Jul 2021). Impact of screen viewing during early childhood on cognitive development.
This article was last reviewed on
22 Nov 2023
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