With many families currently limited to at-home entertainment, screen time continues to be one of the most reliable ways to keep the little ones busy. While technology can benefit your child’s growth, too much can begin to affect their health and wellbeing. When teaching your child about screen time, it’s important to understand the pros, cons and limits required to prevent your tot from overindulging. Here are our tips for establishing healthy screen time habits with your toddler.
Stick to a daily limit
To establish a healthy routine, try and stick to a daily limit of an hour or less. Keep your toddler aware of these restrictions with regular time reminders, and try and encourage breaks every 15 to 30 minutes, as moving around is helpful for your child’s energy levels, development and sleep. While it’s okay to go over the limit on some days, be sure to treat this extra time as a privilege and not a standard.
Set rules for rooms and situations
Be clear with your toddler about when and where screen time is not permitted. Certain periods of the day, such as mealtime, before bed or in the car, should be reserved for rest, interacting with your little one or preparing for the day together. It’s also vital to establish screen-free zones, like the bedroom, and instead keep screen time in the lounge room, living room or other common settings.
Balance their routine
Screen time should only occupy a small part of the day and should not substitute hobbies, playtime outside or social situations. Schedule plenty of non-screen time in your child’s daily routine, as physical games and mentally engaging activities are essential for their creativity and development.
Participate together and combine learning
Where possible, try and use screen time as a bonding or learning experience. Download age-appropriate applications that may help to boost your little one’s development, and take this opportunity to talk your toddler through fun educational games. Alternatively, if you’re unable to spend this time together, take the time to research apps that will introduce your child to letters, numbers and other essential skills.
It’s not always possible to accompany your child during screen time, especially if you’re using this time strategically to finish that Zoom meeting, cook dinner or complete other tasks. Before handing over the iPad or switching on the TV, be sure to censor content and review games to ensure they are appropriate for your toddler. Additionally, keep close to your child during screen time and use parental controls to prevent any curious fingers from exploring.
For parents who’ve got their hands full, it can be difficult to establish this healthy balance. While you shouldn’t feel guilty for permitting screen time, it’s important to set boundaries and expectations, so your little one doesn’t grow accustomed to excess TV time and start dismissing other activities, for example.
Socialising, playing, creating and discovering are the best ways to entertain your child and boost their development. As their guardian, you remain the most important person in their lives, so try and get involved where you can!