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Parent Hub: 0-2 Years - Screen Time

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There is no doubt that parenting can be very demanding. Keeping a young child entertained can wear out even the most patient and hands-on parents. To keep the little one entertained, many parents use digital devices with screens such as the television, tablets and mobile phones so that parents can have a much-needed break.

While pre-schoolers and older kids can have some screen time, it’s not advisable for babies and toddlers under the age of 18 months.

Guidelines on Screen Time

According to local guidelines published by NUS Centre for Holistic Initiatives for Learning and Development (CHILD)

What is screen time and passive viewing?

When can I introduce screen time to my child?

With the large variety of educational programmes, parents might feel pressured to introduce digital devices early. But rest assured, unstructured play (free play) is more valuable for a young child's developing brain than is electronic media. Give your child opportunities for free movement and floor play to develop motor skills such as grasp, suck, search, startle, step, crawl. Your child will learn far more when interacting or reading a book with you than they will from passively watching videos.

After the age of 18 months, you can consider watching educational programmes together and use this time to interact with your child. Do limit this activity to less than 1 hour a day if your child is between 18 months and 3 years old. As your child gets older, adjust the amount of screen time based on his schooling requirements and individual learning needs.

Holding off on screen time means avoiding negotiations and meltdowns over it. If your child never gets to play on your phone, you won't have to worry about tantrums and power struggles over it.

Tips for Daddy and Mummy

Tips for Daddy and Mummy

5 tips to delay and reduce screen time at home

Do not give your child your phone or tablet to play with

There is no doubt that parenting can be very demanding and can wear out even the most patient and hands-on parents. Most babies and toddlers will be contented to play with toys or books. It might be tempting to let them play with your phone or tablet to keep them entertained, however it’s best to delay introducing digital devices to them at an early age.

If they kick up a fuss, distract them by offering them something else as a substitute. For example, offer them their favourite toy or point to a moving object to practise grasping.

You can also change the environment by bringing them to a different room or outside for a quick walk.

Turn off the background TV

Background TV limits the amount and quality of attention we give to young children which can lead to a delay in language development. If you need some entertainment, put on music or an audio book instead.

Limit your own phone use

You are the most important person in your child’s life so they will model your behaviour. If they see you looking at screens often and daily, they’ll conclude that the behaviour is acceptable and will want to do the same.

Establish ‘screen-free’ zones

Screen-free zones at home like the dining table and your child’s bedroom help to consciously remind family members not to use mobile devices during mealtimes and while preparing your child for bed.

Set rules and stick to them

Set rules on when and where can devices be used at home. For example, you can set a rule to put away devices during meal times and at least 30 mins before bed.

Fun, home activities without screens

Sensory play

There are many things you can do that does not involve a screen. For example, go on a play date, a long walk or try craft activities. Here are some ideas that you can try at home with your child:

Download all screen-free activities

Mirror Play

Learn and grow through mirror play

Babies like gazing at themselves in the mirror and playing in front of the mirror can be fun and fascinating for the child.

It offers a way to nurture your child’s development of self-awareness, which is a key part of their overall social-emotional development. Try playing peekaboo, teach your baby to clap the hands in front of the mirror. Try making funny faces and sing with motion.

Independent Play

Explore ways to promote independent play

Independent play is when your child plays on his own without parents interfering. During independent play, your child can explore and experiment and develop their creativity.

3 ways to keep screens away outside the home

If you send your child to infant care, check with the school on their policy about screen time for children below 18 months old and ask if they control screen time.

If someone babysits your child while you are away, be sure that they know and follow your family's rules about screens.

Pack fun alternatives for outing. Bring a ‘fun bag’ of small toys, healthy snacks, stickers and books so when your child gets impatient, you have other tools besides your phone or tablet to come to the rescue.

Do what works for your family!

Mindfulness and moderation are key. Be aware of how much time your child is logging with a screen and make sure much of that is spent with you. A toddler’s mind is impressionable, and they can adapt to the direction you put them in. Dedicate most of your child's day to screen-free time such as free play, social interactions, drawing, puzzles, books and toys.