Technology is an ever-growing aspect of society and continues to affect the way we work, socialise and operate daily. Before introducing devices to your child, it’s important to understand both the pros and cons of screen time and how a healthy balance can protect and benefit their health and wellbeing.

Toddlers develop motor skills by exploring their environments and engaging in physically and mentally stimulating activities. According to The Department of Health, toddlers aged 2 to 5 should be limited to less than an hour of sedentary screen time daily, mixed with plenty of physical activities during the rest of the day.

What are the benefits of screen time?

One primary benefit of technology today is the ability it gives us to connect with family and friends. When used appropriately, some of the other benefits that screen time offers your child include:

  • Digital literacy. Today, digital skills are valued both in an educational and professional setting.
  • Calming tendencies. In stressful or anxiety-inducing situations (such as before a medical appointment), screen time has been known to calm and ease children.
  • Greater learning. With the right programs and applications, screen time can provide interactive and developmental learning opportunities.

What are the potential risks of excessive screen time?

Conversely, toddlers who are exposed to excessive screen time can be at risk of long-term problems associated with their health, wellbeing and behaviour. For this reason, it’s important to establish healthy screen time habits early on.

  • Health problems. Toddlers who indulge more in screen time and less in physical activity may suffer issues with their physical and mental health.
  • Reduced enjoyment in other activities. Some children who grow accustomed to excessive screen time may find less enjoyment in other activities, such as imaginative or outdoor play.
  • Disrupted sleep. Excess screen time and blue light exposure, particularly close to bedtime, can cause sleep disturbances.
  • Shorter attention span and irritability. Too much screen time can also affect your child’s mood and attention span, which may negatively impact their learning ability later in life.
  • Social skills. Toddlers who are overexposed to technology may find it more difficult to socialise and communicate later on.

How do I establish a healthy balance?

As always, the key to this debated topic is moderation, balance and consistency. Here are some tips to help you establish healthy screen time habits:

  • Set rules, boundaries and limits. Ensure your child is aware of when, where and how much screen time is allowed and treat any extra time as a privilege, not a given.
  • Balance their schedule. Dedicate most of the day to physical activity, socialising and other mentally stimulating games.
  • Incorporate learning. Where possible, try and encourage your little one to play engaging, mentally stimulating games that may help to boost development.
  • Participate together. If you can, take screen time as an opportunity to walk your little one through fun educational games, as this can enhance their understanding and encourage conversation.