Since it is very easy to entertain and educate a child with TV shows and games on smartphones and tablets, parents often ask this question: Is there a recommended screen time for preschoolers? Let us find out in this article.
What is Screen time?
Preschoolers, or children in the 3-5 years old age bracket, are rapidly growing from their infancy and toddlerhood stage. For this reason, parents must involve them in physical activities that promote motor development. Parents should also encourage their kids to engage in things that enhance their social, intellectual, and emotional capacities.
One way to supplement learning is to allow them to watch educational TV programs and play games on tablets and smartphones. However, too much “screen time” can also have negative effects on a child’s overall health.
Screen time, to be precise, is the amount of time spent in front of devices with screens. This includes using tablets, smartphones, and computers. It also includes the period of time kids spend watching TV shows. Of course, parents may choose the appropriate shows and games for kids, but experts still recommend limiting a child’s total screen time.
So, what is the recommended screen time for preschoolers?
How Much is Too Much Screen time?
The consensus is that preschoolers should only have daily screen time of no more than 2 hours. Some experts even say that 2 hours is already pushing the limit. They insist that preschoolers should only have a maximum of one hour of screen time a day.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends this 1-hour daily screen time. They also add that this screen time should only consist of “high-quality programming.”
What Are the Effects of Too Much Screen time?
Knowing the recommended screen time for preschoolers is just the first step. The real challenge is for parents and guardians to come up with ways on how to limit their kids’ time on TV and their screens.
Generally, too much screen time is linked to:
- Less time for play that requires physical movement and social interactions.
- Possible sleep deprivation, since screen time might “mess up” a child’s sleeping schedule. It may also result in shorter sleep duration.
- Problems in behavior
- Lack of socialization skills
- Possible violence
Aside from the effects mentioned above, too much screen time is also linked to obesity. This is because children who spend too much time watching TV often do not get enough exercise. Additionally, they tend to eat while watching. The advertisements on the screen might also prompt them to ask for unhealthy foods.
Following the recommended screen time for preschoolers may also help ensure proper brain development. According to experts, too much screen time may harm their ability to pay attention and focus, communicate, and “sense” another person’s attitude or feelings.
Screen time vs Real-Time
To better understand what too much screen time might do to your child’s development, think of the simple act of telling a story.
When a mother holds the book and tells the story, the child has to do a lot of thinking. They must process their mother’s voice into words and paint the picture in their head. To follow the storyline, they might ask questions or request to go back to the previous page. When the mother changes her voice and intonation, they will react and respond. In other words, the whole activity is interactive and stimulating because they need to exert some mental effort.
On the other hand, when the screen tells the story, it is like a “shortcut.” The narrator tells the story and a video will be there to show them what is happening. Psychologists state that the device “does much of the thinking” for them.
Guidelines to Follow: Recommended Screen time for Preschoolers
It may be difficult to follow the recommended screen time for preschoolers, but there are small steps that you can take.
- Make sure that there is no television, tablet, computer, or smartphone in your child’s bedroom.
- It is also helpful to set a TV timer. Some TVs have the function to automatically turn off after being on for a certain amount of time.
- Do not allow your child to watch TV while doing another activity, such as when they are doing their homework or eating.
- If you are using the TV just for background noise, turn it off and just use the radio.
- Ahead of time, decide what programs your child will watch on TV.
As for tablets, computers, and smartphones, choose the appropriate games or applications for preschoolers. One good tip here is to select interactive programs. For example, some shows let them choose, ask them to sing, or instruct them to dance.
While preschoolers are too young to search and download on their own, it is still helpful to set some internet controls. This will allow you to filter or block certain content on the web that is inappropriate for kids.
Finally, aside from giving the recommended screen time for preschoolers, experts also have one important advice: Supervise their screen time. Be there when they use the device as it is easier to make the activity interactive. Not only will you see what they are doing, but you can also respond to their questions and reactions.
Recommended Activities to Enhance Learning
Aside from limiting a child’s total screen time, experts also suggest doing an equal amount of physical and creative activity. Here are some recommendations:
- Read a book
- Draw or paint
- Plant or work in the garden; you can make them do simple tasks like watering the plants or planting the seeds
- Play traditional Filipino games with them
- Cook or bake; make the task easy, like asking them to mix the cake batter or pour the ingredients
Even though they may be young, preschoolers can also help with household chores. Just make it easy and fun for them. For example, while doing the laundry, prepare two baskets and let them separate the white clothes from those with color.
Following the recommended screen time for preschoolers will help your children develop the knowledge and skills necessary for physical and intellectual growth. Experts say that parents must lead by example. In other words, parents too must limit their screen time.
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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.