Young children and screen time

Tablets, mobile ‘phones, TVs, laptops and computer games consoles are everywhere and most of us couldn’t do without them! We all know that allowing your child screen time sometimes feels like the only we can get things done. Giving your child access to a tablet or phone is often a sure-fire way of keeping them happy and busy whilst you get on with other things.

Screen time isn’t always a bad thing, there are many fantastic, educational apps out there that are great for helping children to develop but we need to be really mindful of how long we use them for.

What do we mean by “Screen time?”

“Screen time” refers to any time spent looking at a screen.

This includes:

  • TV – including watching television programmes, DVDs, and playing games consoles
  • Tablets
  • Smart Phones
  • Laptops or PCs

Did you know

That too much screen time can really affect your child’s speech and language development?

Using technology prepares children for the future – so what’s the problem?

Children will get the best out of technology if they have strong language skills to start with. Children learn to talk and communicate by interacting with parents and other people in their life. This development happens in the very early years of life and involves watching faces, hearing talk about what is going on around them and taking turns to make sounds and words with an interested adult. These turn-taking interactions form the basis for conversation as children develop. Tuning into other people at an early age also helps develop attention and social skills. The more opportunities babies and children get to interact with an interested adult, the more opportunities there are to develop language and communication. So, too much screen time can limit the amount of interactive time a child has with an adult and this has an impact on the amount of talk they can hear and join in with.

How much screen time is okay for my child?

Advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests that children aged 2-5 should have a one hour limit on the time spent in front of screens.

How important is what my child watches or plays?

It is important to ensure that programmes or games are age-appropriate for your child. Try to avoid anything aimed at adult audiences (e.g. disturbing News, Soaps, adult Music Channels and talks shows)

Did you know

Based on viewing patterns, it’s estimated that children starting school will have seen 8000 murders, and 100,000 other acts of violence and destruction during screen time

Top tips for safe Screen Time at home

  • Sit with your child and share the screen and talk about what they are doing or seeing.
  • Talk about what your child saw on screen in your everyday activities.
  • Set limits on the amount of time young children access screens – this might be a challenge to start with but littlest children prefer time with their parents playing, exploring and doing physical activities!
  • Reading a book together is better than any app for child’s language development.
  • Switch off and unplug devices and TVs when they are not in use – background noise can impact on listening skills and children will be easily distracted by TV programmes even if the sound is turned down
  • Think about YOUR phone behaviour! Everyday activities like helping your child with bathing or feeding, eating out, sitting on the bus, playing in the garden provide a great time for you to talk and interact together.

Visit our information page about keeping children safe online

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