By Deborah Lee MS, OTR/L
Screen time is definitely an advantage for parents to keep their little ones occupied while they have to deal with work related matters or even small tasks to complete at home. However, did you know that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises against screen time especially for children under the age of 2? This is because screen time prevents children from developing their social skills, as they may not know how to interpret facial expressions or pick up on other social cues that can mostly be learned through face-to-face interactions. Studies have also shown that for children under the age of 2 who are glued to screens had impacted expressive language, resulting in fewer words in comparison to same-aged peers.
Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, an influx amount of children appear to have extensive speech delays as well as poorer cognitive/play and social-emotional skills. With the impossibility of going outdoors or even having play dates, parents had no other option but to keep their children at ease and occupied through shows and tablet games. When families go outdoors to eat a meal, tablets are heavily utilized so that it keeps their child calm and busy in order for them to have a nice and pleasant meal. Though at times parents deserve to have a break in between all of the chaos that comes with parenting, which means providing children with screen time, there are alternative ways to keep your children occupied. For example, instead of tablets, you can pack your child’s preferred toys for them to engage with at the dining table, bubbles are always a great addition, coloring activities, and more. All the more, babies need humans to interact with specifically to learn and understand the world because screen time does not teach them that.
Below you will find screen time recommendations by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) broken down into various age groups to better assist your knowledge:
Babies (0-18 months):
No screen time except for a video call with family members/adults
Toddlers (18-24 months):
Less than 1 hour a day and screen time should consist of educational videos with the supervision of an adult
- Example: Ms. Rachel on YouTube
Children (2-5 years old):
Limit non-educational screen time to 1 hour per day during the week and up to 3 hours on weekend days.
Kids & Teenagers (6-17 years old):
2 hours a day, except for homework
- For older children, continued minimization of screen time is still crucial to maintain healthy habits and lifestyle. This is because excessive screen time can lead to sleep challenges, performance in school (i.e., lower grades), less interaction with family and friends, weight problems, mood problems, “fear of missing out”, poor body image, and understanding alterative ways to decompress and enjoy time/life!