As a parent in our digital age, it’s natural to wonder about the impact of screen time on our babies and toddlers. We often find ourselves surrounded by screens – TVs, smartphones, tablets – and it’s important to understand how much is too much for our little ones. Let’s delve into the recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO) and discover how we can provide a healthy screen time balance for our children.
Moreover, it’s worth mentioning that excessive screen time has been associated with a rise in myopia, also known as nearsightedness, in children. But no need to worry! There are ways to help keep those glasses prescriptions from skyrocketing using myopia control techniques. These techniques can involve fun outdoor activities, reducing screen time, taking regular breaks from up-close tasks, and by getting a myopia control consultation by an optometrist. On method of myopia control includes a contact lens exam and specialized fitting for contact lenses that are specifically designed to slow down myopia progression.
1. Infants (aged 0-1 year): The WHO advises against exposing infants to screens, except for video chatting. This might sound surprising, but it’s based on the understanding that babies thrive on active interaction with their caregivers and the environment. Screens, on the other hand, are passive and limit their opportunities for real-world exploration and learning.
2. Toddlers (aged 1-2 years): The WHO recommends limiting sedentary screen time to no more than one hour per day. This is an upper limit, and less is always better. Instead, let’s focus on non-screen activities that encourage physical activity, social interaction, and imaginative play.
Why should we be mindful of screen time?
a. Physical health: Excessive screen time contributes to a sedentary lifestyle, increasing the risk of obesity and related health issues. Movement is crucial for developing motor skills, so let’s prioritize activities that get our little ones up and moving.
b. Sleep patterns: Screens emit blue light that disrupts the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. Excessive screen time can lead to difficulties falling asleep and staying asleep. Adequate rest is essential for our children’s overall health and well-being.
c. Cognitive development: Research indicates that too much screen exposure can hinder language development, attention span, and problem-solving abilities. Real-life experiences offer the best opportunities for our children to learn and make sense of the world around them. Let’s ensure they have ample time for critical thinking and creativity.
d. Social interaction: Screens can isolate our children, limiting their chances for face-to-face interactions that are vital for developing meaningful relationships and communication skills. Let’s encourage real-time social interactions to help them build and maintain relationships throughout their lives.
Practical tips for finding the right balance
1. Avoid screen time for infants: Engage in activities that promote physical interaction, such as talking, singing, reading, playing, and cuddling. These moments not only enrich their cognitive development but also strengthen the bond between you and your little one.
2. Limit screen time for toddlers: Aim for no more than one hour of sedentary screen time per day. Instead, encourage activities that involve physical movement, like outdoor play, sports, and imaginative play with toys and books.
3. Choose high-quality content: If screen time is unavoidable, opt for age-appropriate, educational, and interactive content. Look for programs or apps that focus on promoting language, cognitive, and social skills. Engage with your child during screen time to make it a shared experience.
4. Create screen-free zones and times: Establish areas in your home where screens are not allowed, such as bedrooms and mealtime areas. Additionally, designate specific times during the day when screens are off-limits, like before bedtime, to ensure uninterrupted sleep.
5. Be a positive role model: Children learn by observing their parents and caregivers. Limit your own screen time, especially when interacting with your child. Show them that there are alternative activities that are more engaging and beneficial.
Remember, the goal is not to demonize all screen time. When used appropriately and in moderation, screens can offer educational and entertainment benefits. The key is finding a balance between screen activities and other essential experiences for your child’s healthy development.
By following these guidelines and embracing activities that foster active interaction and a variety of experiences, we can provide our babies and toddlers with a healthy screen time balance that supports their growth and development.