Young children and even toddlers are surprisingly proficient at using technology. You don’t have to search long or hard before coming into contact with a young child playing with mom’s phone in the grocery store, at a local park, or in the airport. With such a compelling distraction it can be very tempting to just hand a child a tablet or phone to keep them occupied, especially when in public. While a little bit of screen time in your child’s day is by no means detrimental, like every other aspect of parenting it should be done in moderation. Will your child’s brain crumble after watching a few episodes of his favorite cartoon while you do the dishes? No. Does your child’s brain respond differently to screens than to other surfaces or toys? Yes.
It’s important to understand just how impressionable and formative a child’s brain is in the first 5 years of his life. Did you know that those first 5 years will lay the foundation for the rest of your child’s learning capability? Before panicking and throwing away every electronic device in your home, take a deep breath and remember—everything in moderation!
Since this can be a tricky topic to navigate, let’s get practical with 3 ways you can help your child manage his or her exposure to electronics throughout the day.
Avoid using the electronic device as a reward or punishment tool. If the child only gets the tablet when he’s “good” then you may be amazed at how angelic your child becomes! But if the tablet or phone is taken away before the child is ready, it will likely cause a meltdown and the child may associate the removal of the tablet with bad behavior—even if that isn’t why you’re taking it away!
Schedule TV/tablet time as a regular part of the day. Instead of using it as a bargaining chip, treat tablet or phone usage as something associated with a particular time of day. For example, do you have a toddler who still takes naps during the day and also an older sibling who no longer requires a nap? Use that naptime as “quiet time” for your older child and give your child the tablet to play with during that time and only during that time. They may fuss when you remove the tablet but they know—there will be quiet time tomorrow!
Don’t leave the TV on all day. If nobody in the home is watching the TV, turn it off! If you enjoy having some kind of background noise on, turn on a radio and play music. Children are immediately drawn to the moving pictures on a TV or tablet so by eliminating that distraction it
will encourage your child to find other ways to occupy his or her time such as going outside to play, reading a book, or playing with other toys.
Technology can be a great asset for parents and children! There are so many educational opportunities to utilize and many shows for children that teach great social skills. It is important not make technology the boss of the house. With healthy boundaries and clear expectations, you and your children can find a rhythm with iPads and iPhones and TV that will not jeopardize your child’s growth or development.
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