Digital media has been a vital aspect in our lives today. However, the case is different when it comes to kids. Nothing is wrong when you hand your child your Smartphone or mobile device every once in a while to watch educational videos. Lending them your Smartphones to play mobile games like Clash of Clans is a different thing. Allowing them to use your mobile devices in a productive way or to Skype with Daddy who stays overseas is OK. However, helping them calm down or trying to keep the house peaceful by bribing your kids with digital media devices is different.
A recent study at the University of Michigan Health System posted via the Science Daily claims that parents should be paying more attention not only with the amount of time kids spent on social media but as well as to how, when and where they use it.
Kids aged 2 to 5 are encouraged to use digital devices for an hour a day at most, while children younger than 18 months should avoid digital devices as much as possible. It is also recommended to watch high-quality programs for children, one that a parent and child can engage and discuss on after. However, the fact remains that there are not enough studies conducted to determine the long-term effect of early exposure to digital media in children.
Shows likes Sesame Street can teach kids new ideas and basic educational concepts like reading and writing, however, for children below three years old, their immature brain might have a hard time transferring what they see on screen to real-life. Thus, knowing which shows is appropriate for your child’s maturity level and comprehension is also necessary. Parents are primarily the main authority that can manage to create a balance with digital media use and other productive children activities.
However, some parents may ask why limiting screen time for kids is necessary? I am actually asking the same thing to myself since my youngest child basically memorized the alphabet and counting by watching YouTube videos.
Too much screen time is attributed with the increase in the body mass index of children since they spend most of the time sitting or lying around decreasing physical activities. It is also linked to the lack of quality sleep and even makes it harder for children to regulate their emotions
What should parents do?
- Encourage kids to do more physical activities by engaging them to outdoor activities and sports.
- Banning the use of social media an hour before bed and during family gatherings and activities.
- Turning off digital devices when not in use (including your television).
- Banning the use of social media during meal times and parent-child playtime (television included again).
- Help children understand the healthy ways on how to use social media (doing research and assignments). Let them know that it is not created merely for entertainment.
- Introduce other activities like drawing, crafting, writing and reading to your kids (real printed paper-back books please!)
- Parents should limit their screen time as well to be able to spend “quality” and “focused” time for their kids.
- Always filter what your kids see on these digital devices.
- Always guide and be there together with your kids when using digital media devices. Parental patronage is definitely advised.
Digital media is not corrupt and kids should not be banned from it completely. Kids can video chat with their parents, stream music, watch dance videos, look for new recipes and craft ideas, take pictures and create videos, enjoy movie nights and a whole lot more of fun, recreational and educational activities. Cutting them off from digital media use is unhealthy as well.
Here’s a guide on how you can plan your family’s digital media use from HealthyChildren.org