Is Screen Time Healthy for Children?
Many years ago, when tablets and smart phones were not yet invented, screen time only meant watching the television. And there were not many channels that show purely cartoons unless you have cable TV, which was only affordable for affluent families. Disney cartoons were so popular, which is why princesses are so popular among small children. However, the amount of time spent on screen was not as excessive as it is now. Children still enjoyed playing outside with friends, reading books, drawing, and being physically active. Well, not anymore.
Nowadays, many kids are so addicted to using tablets and smart phones that parents and educators are already raising alarm about its negative effects to the young ones. They would prefer sitting down or lying down watching their favorite shows on YouTube or Netflix for long periods of time. Many studies have been made and revealed that too much screen time can lead to cognitive development delays, social skills delay, physical development delay and many more. Toddlers are so stimulated with the colorful graphics and songs in different versions. I must admit, my son is also one of those who are fascinated with these gadgets. But I always make sure that there is limitation.
However, there are also benefits offered by these modern-day gadgets that our kids love. In fact, I was surprised that my child had learned the alphabet and its sounds perfect, just by watching YouTube. I did not introduce the alphabet early to my little one, because I am an advocate of learning through play. But surprisingly, even before I introduced him to phonics, he had already mastered it. There are many videos that are educational to children, but the issue here is how much time are you supposed to allow your son or daughter to use his or her iPad or cellphones.
Gadgets should not be allowed to babies. This should be introduced at least at the age of 2 and if possible using big screens not the mobile phone. Parents should only allow maximum one hour a day. And this should be divided into fragments like 10 minutes per screen time or for toddlers 20 minutes per screen time. There should be parent or adult supervision while the children are watching. And interaction should be continuous, for instance, mommy or daddy should explain what the child is watching.
Instead of giving preschoolers something to watch on screen, let the children play outside. Read stories to them and instill among them the love for reading. They should let their imagination work more by picturing the stories in their mind. Allow them to be creative by giving them drawing and coloring materials to explore and use. Teach them how to have fun without the use of mobile phones or tablets. Give them pets to take care of for them to learn responsibility. And set up play dates with their friends or cousins. This will help them develop their social skills and learn how to solve problems when they encounter one during playtime.
Parents need to be consistent and firm when setting up the schedule of screen time at home. Moreover, make sure that you find the right programs, which are education and informative as opposed to merely entertaining for your children. Undeniably the new generation of kids is better in manipulating technology compared to the older generation. They can search for different programs, which are sometimes inappropriate for their age.
YouTube Kids is a good app that you might want to install in their tablets and disable YouTube. This is because, with YouTube Kids, they can only access programs that are appropriate for them. There is a lock feature that will stop them from accessing videos that are inappropriate for their age. This app is good for preschoolers who are very curious and just keep pressing on to different channels without knowing what is allowed for them and not. As parents, you want to make sure that your child is exposed to a high quality and educational program that will benefit them while watching instead of harming them.
Much research have been conducted to study the positive and negative effects of kids using computers, tablets and cellphones. Majority of them agree that it is not healthy for users especially if it is being used for long periods of time. However, with proper guidance from parents and educator, as well as screen time limitation, this technology can also be useful to your offspring especially now that we are living in a world run by technology. After all, it is also important not to be technology illiterate and the young ones knowing how to use these gadgets will be helpful for them both at school and in the real world.
Writer: Hazel May Vinluan-Kim