Pandemic or no, it can be appealing to give your toddler a screen for a little break for both them and you. But you might have heard from your pediatrician or well-meaning family members that you should limit your toddler’s screen time.
Here’s what you should know about screen time for toddlers.
Screen Time for Toddlers: Brain Development
The majority of brain development happens within the first two years of life, which is why pediatricians recommend limiting screen time. These days, everyone’s got a screen, so this can seem difficult, but that’s OK. If your child is under 2 and happens to have screen time, just make sure it’s as productive as possible. This can be things like playing a color or shape game on a tablet or watching an educational program. What you shouldn’t do, experts say, is watch something like your favorite TV show with your child.
Research has found that too much screen time for toddlers can stunt brain development. Studies have found that too much screen time at ages 2 to 3 influences development at ages 3 to 5. Too much screen time is more than an hour per day for ages 2 to 3.
What to Consider During Screen Time
You can make your toddler’s screen time more productive by:
- Spending time with your child while they’re having screen time. This can look like talking about what they’re seeing in an educational show or interacting with them while they play a game.
- Researching games, apps or shows before downloading them for your child
- Scheduling unstructured playtime and other times like mealtime into your day to have plenty of breaks from screens.
If your child is going to watch a show, experts recommend choosing one that has characters that occasionally speak to the child and encourage the child to participate in the show by counting or repeating a word, for example. This is commonly seen in shows like Dora the Explorer, Bubble Guppies or Blues Clues.
While screen time can be an effective learning tool, you can make it more beneficial for your child by:
- Encouraging them to be active with you by doing what the characters are doing
- Trying to connect the show to what’s happening in real life. For example, if you watched a show about going to the doctor, talk about that the next time your child has a doctor’s appointment.
- Pointing out and naming the things you see on screen.
When used appropriately, screen time can provide some benefits for your child’s development, but experts say you shouldn’t use screen time to put your child to sleep.
Screen time for toddlers has benefits and drawbacks. If you have questions or concerns about how much time your child spends in front of a screen or what programming or games are appropriate, speak with your child’s doctor.