From smartphones to tablets and from laptop and desktop computers, gaming systems, and television sets, we’re surrounded daily by screens. Fortunately, these devices offer plenty of benefits. They’re a way to connect with other people, learn new information, and be entertained.From smartphones to tablets and from laptop and desktop computers, gaming systems, and television sets, we’re surrounded daily by screens. Fortunately, these devices offer plenty of benefits. They’re a way to connect with other people, learn new information, and be entertained.
But what’s the ideal amount of screen time for preschoolers? How much is too much, preventing these young children from engaging in physical activity that helps to keep them healthy?
According to KidsHealth.org, the (pre-pandemic) recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) was as follows: preschoolers (ages 2 to 5) should have — at the most — one hour of daily screen time. There was, however, an exception; time spent chatting with family members through a video application provides quality interaction and should therefore not be included in that hour.
The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry gave a similar recommendation for children in this age group: one hour of non-educational screen time during the week and three hours daily on weekends. The inclusion of “non-educational” in their recommendation highlights how not all screen time is the same.
Examples of quality screen time include when you watch well-made educational programming with your preschooler or when you play an interactive game together that teaches your child about letters and/numbers. Contrast that to putting the television on all day and letting your child wander in and out, as desired, to watch programming and you can see one key difference: the amount of interaction taking place.
Screen Time During the Pandemic
“Screens have become the way kids interact with the world,” says Dr. Cross. “It’s how they are engaging with family members, friends, teachers and classmates. To view screen time as the same as it was before COVID-19 is just not feasible.” (Dr. Jennifer Cross)
When COVID hit, many schools went virtual. Naturally enough, this significantly boosted overall screen time for families across the country and has caused Dr. Cross to tell parents to toss out the rulebook. Previous screen time concerns, she says, have completely flipped upside down in our pandemic world.
So, rather than trying to stick to a strict time frame, think about the quality of the screen time and set screen time limits based on quality. Recommendations for television programming, the article notes, include Sesame Street and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. What to avoid: “super-stimulating cartoons with lots of action and little dialogue.”
If your preschooler watches one of these shows in the morning, try an interactive activity together in the afternoon. PBS Kids offers great ideas to help your child develop active skills.
Summing Up Preschooler Screen Time: 1, 2, 3
A Harvard publication explains screen time in this way. Yes, the amount of time spent watching programming and/or interacting with games online is one aspect to monitor when it comes to preschoolers and their screen time. As just noted, so is the quality of what’s being consumed. They also list a third way: how a parent helps a child to process what’s on the screen. In other words, how you interact with your child and the content they’re viewing will enable your child to learn the right way to use screen time. Make sure the time spent in front of the screen doesn’t affect your child’s ability to develop pretend play, language skills and their ability to think creatively.
Horizon Education Centers’ Preschool Programming
At Horizon, we offer quality preschool programs that have a focus on:
- Kindergarten readiness
- Literacy skills
- Verbal and social skills
- Number recognition
- Letters recognition
- Developmental screenings and assessments
Scroll down our preschool page for a form where you can ask questions or request enrollment.