High Tech Toddlers
One of my children is attracted to anything with a screen. I’ve seen him learn things faster and in greater detail than he would ever have done it in any other way while engaging with a screen. Tasks that are laborious to him in school and at home become easy when he can touch and manipulate a keyboard or touch screen. I have seen the benefits of allowing him time with screen-based education and entertainment, but I have also learned to keep the following in mind when making decisions about this subject:
- The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that they do NOT advise any technology for a child under two years old. After two, minimal exposure is recommended. Therefore, since your toddler is just under the age of two, it is important to determine if any screen time is appropriate. If you prefer to wait until he is two years old, the following suggestions will give you a chance to do your research, compile the technology you feel comfortable with and give you the time to plan your “tech plan” for your child.
- Make sure the subject matter of the application, game or DVD is appropriate for his age. Avoid violent images or uncontrolled bullying themes. Research has clearly connected exposure to violent images to increased aggression in children.
- Limit daily screen time. Allowing children to have screen time before bed time can impinge on the quality of sleep your toddler is getting. Rather allow her screen time in the middle of the afternoon or early evening.
- Talk to her about what she experiences on screen by playing the game or watching the DVD with her.
- Use technology as an interaction tool and not too frequently as a babysitter. There is nothing that provides downtime for mom more easily than a screen! Make use of it if you have to especially when you need to keep your sanity, but make a point of sharing her screen-based world with her too.
- Be wary of fantasy stories at this stage of your child’s development. She is not able to distinguish between real and make believe yet. Viewing elaborate fantasy stories with creatures and violence may be disturbing to her at this stage.
- Buy quality apps, DVD’s and games. I have fallen in the trap of downloading games or apps just because it is free, just to delete it an hour later. Read reviews and scrutinize all levels of an app or game before you download it. Some inappropriate material may be hiding in a more advanced level.
Toddler screen time should be managed and balanced against other types of play activities. Make sure your child has enough chances to interact with people, play with open-ended toys and be outside. When screen-based entertainment is part of a balanced lifestyle, the benefits will neutralize the disadvantages in your toddler’s life.