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Screen Time and Babies: Limits and Tips on How to reduce the exposure

Lifestyle / Jul 04, 2022 / Vetted by Dr Sandip Gupta, MBBS, MD, FNB-PICU
Screen time is it okay

Many new parents believe that their children will be able to learn the alphabet, words, and numbers using electronic devices. Most babies seem to enjoy the bright images and sounds that are on the screen as well. However, no studies have shown that learning through a screen is beneficial to babies. Although television, smartphones, video games, and computers can keep your child entertained for hours, you do not want them to spend too much time in front of a screen for a variety of reasons. That said, setting time limits on TV and mobile games for children is not always easy. Here are a few simple tips to help parents determine how much screen time is suitable for their children.

How much screen time is suitable for babies?

Screen time refers to the amount of time spent in front of a screen, be it a smartphone, tablet, computer, or television. The following is the recommended limit of time for babies:
  • Children below 24 months: no screen time
  • Children aged 2 to 5 years: less than one hour per day.
  • Mealtimes: screen time is not advised.
  • One hour before bedtime: screen exposure is not recommended.

Will increased screen time affect my baby?

Increased screen time is one of the leading causes of sedentary behaviour, increased health risks, and non-communicable diseases like obesity later in life.
Screen time negatively impacts children's academic, behavioural, physical, and psychosocial well-being, as well as induces delayed motor skill development. Increased screen time may also lead to a delay in your child's language skills.

Children tend to imitate their parents' screen-time habits. Also, because they are exposed to content that is inappropriate for their age, children may develop antisocial and aggressive behaviours modelled after the characters they see. They may further develop behavioural problems that can even affect their adolescence.

Excessive screen time can lead to some of the following problems:

  • Damage to the eyes and vision.
  • Problems with sleeping.
  • Less time reading books and with friends and family. 
  • Poor performance in school. 
  • Reduced physical and outdoor activities. 
  • Body-image issues and hampered self-image. 
  • Weight gain and behavioural problems. 
  • Not learning other ways to enjoy and relax. 

The content on these devices may expose children to the following:

  • Drugs and sexual content.
  • Violence, challenges, and stunts. 
  • Cyberbullying. 
  • Inaccurate or misleading information. 
  • Advertisements that are aimed at children

How to reduce screen time for kids?

A lot of the content on the electronic devices used by children may be claimed to be child-friendly, but their excessive use is not healthy for children. Determining the appropriate amount of screen time and content is very important for parents now. 

Here's seven tips that you can follow to control your child’s screen time and content:

Be a role model: The best way to discipline your child concerning their screen usage habits is to set an example by limiting your own screen use in the house. 

Educate yourself: Keep a watch on what your child watches or plays, as it may contain violence, sexual content, and strong language. Learn how to place a block on certain content that is not age-appropriate for your child.

Encourage non-screen activities: Encourage your child to keep their electronic gadgets aside and play outside, spend time with friends, play board games or read.

Mealtime limitations: Make sure to avoid using any devices during meal times.

Set zones: Make your children's room device-free zones.

Regulate and supervise: Check reviews and details before your child watches a show. Sit with your child when they play video games or watch shows or videos to determine if they are appropriate for your child.

Make good shows accessible: Bookmark your child's favourite websites so that it becomes easy to find them and they do not visit any objectionable websites accidentally. 

Currently, a wide variety of content is available for children. Make the right choice in what your child watches and how much they watch without compromising on what is important for their social development.

 

References:

  1. HealthySD.gov. Screens: not for babies!.
  2. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Screen time and children [2020]. 
  3. KidsHealth. Healthy habits for TV, video games, and the internet


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