HERE’S A HEALTHY MEDIA DIET FOR YOUR TODDLER
Ways you can ensure a healthy media consumption
Millennials are born into the world of digital devices, and digital parenting seems to be the need of the hour. TV, smartphones, tabs, laptops, etc are now regarded as family members. As parents, we are figuring out what role these new gadgets should play in the lives of our young children. On one hand, we are flooded with educational videos and channels for engaging young minds; on the other hand, we parents have found ourselves guilty and confused about the duration of our child’s screen time. Every parent is bombarded with conflicting advice, and hence face that long-debated question: is this ideal and safe? Can we claim to know more today about how babies interact with these gadgets than we did even four or five years ago? Let’s clear this confusion today!
The connection between screen time and healthy development
Your little one is yet to experience many things and in this process the right exposure and assistance from you, can make the journey easy. Keep in mind that each choice you make for your child may have a significant or
permanent impact on his life. When it comes to screen time, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends keeping all screens off around babies and toddlers younger than 18 months. They say a little screen time can be okay for older babies; children two years and older should get no more than an hour of screen time per day. AAP also added that limiting the screen time is not enough; parents need to very careful and must choose high quality shows Language acquisition: According to experts, a two-year-old should know anywhere between 50 to 225 words. For example, mommy, dada, milk, shoe, cat, and so on. Until your child is at least 30 months old, passively watching the screen will not contribute anything to his vocabulary. If a parent actively participates in a child’s screen time by watching along with them and repeating words and sounds (a means to reinforce the new word the child has been introduced to from digital media), the better the chance that the baby may learn that word. Babies learn to speak when the parents and caregivers interact with them through eye contact, body luggage and sounds. They constantly need someone around who can repeat till they babble the word. After this, a child needs quite time to sit and babble, and even familiarise or experiment with his voice. This is when your digital device can prove to be of much help. Social and emotional development: In order to help your child socialise and interact, your child needs to connect with you face to face. A screen may distract from these interactions and your baby is more likely to passively watch the screen than experience the emotional connect that comes with a face to face interaction. Researchers have found that babies and toddlers who start watching TV at a younger age, may have
a tougher time managing their emotions and comforting themselves when they’re older. Weight gain: It’s important for children to keep moving because physical activity boosts physical development. When a child is younger, as parents, we tend to limit their time spent outdoors as a means to protect them from dust, dirt and infections. To top that off, if we replace their indoor play time with screen time, gaining weight or obesity will be and inevitable outcome. Many researchers have drawn a connection between too much screen time and obesity in preschool years and beyond. For example, one recent study found that a toddler’s body mass index (BMI) increased with every hour of screen time per week. Sleep problems: Babies six month and older, need 15 hours of sleep a day; toddlers need up to 14 hours. The more the screen time the child gets, the lesser the sleep they get. Screen time and poor sleep quality are strongly associated with each other. Multiple studies have found that the more time children spend in front of a screen – particularly in the evening – the less sleep they are likely to get. This holds true even for infants as young as six months. This is especially troubling considering that young children need a lot of sleep to grow and thrive. The AAP said that the light emitted by screens may delay the release of melatonin or the sleep hormone, making it harder to fall asleep.
Watching something on a screen is stimulating and makes it harder for children to quiet down when it’s time for bed.
SHOULD MY BABY OR TODDLER HAVE ANY SCREEN TIME AT ALL?
Honestly, this is a very subject choice, but one that must be made keeping your child’s age in mind. It’s best to keep it to small doses and guide your baby or toddler through the experience. A child’s day should be dedicated to free play, social interactions, toys and books. Mindfulness and moderation is key when it comes to deciding upon the amount of screen time your child gets. However, keep in mind that for children less than 18 months old, no screen time should be permitted at all. After that, ensure you keep it as low as 15 minutes to half an hour, and do not increase it to two hours till your child reaches the age of five. Moreover, ensure you monitor the amount of educative videos your child watches. Recreational viewing is permitted, but screen time should primarily consist of educational content.
WHILE SCREEN TIME DOES HAVE ITS PROS AND CONS, ENSURING YOUR CHILD IS ON A HEALTHY MEDIA DIET, IS OF UTMOST IMPORTANCE. HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO DO:
No. 1: Set Ground rules As a responsible parent, set a fixed time for when your child is allowed to watch television. During meals, while using the washroom and before bed time, children should be banned from watching television. However, during times when a child isn’t allowed to step out, for example in the afternoon heat or on rainy days, quality family TV time, with a set limit or child-friendly content, is okay. Just remember, keep a check on the quality of content and the time of viewing. No. 2: One device at a time If it’s time for your child to watch an educative video on your smartphone or tablet, ensure you trun off the television that’s on in the background. That is also counted as screen time. If your child is playing with his toys or with his books, it’s okay to play child-friendly music or nursery rhymes in the background. However, if the device through which you’re playing the music has a screen, ensure that the screen is turned off as this is an unhealthy practice and can curb a child’s development. No. 3: Keep all the devices out of bathroom Setting boundaries from the beginning is a must. Self-care and selfhygiene is way more important than entertainment. No. 4: Age-specific content Whatever little screen time is permitted, make sure that you choose ageappropriate content that reinforces learning. You must consider every small detail before choosing to play it in front of your child – from the content, the characters, colours, music, etc., as your child’s mind is a sponge and will absorb much more than you’re aware of. No. 5: Be a partner When it comes to your child’s screen time, remember that you are the active partner, and as such, need to be vigilant. Moreover, make sure you talk to your child as much as possible, explaining certain aspects of what is being shown on screen. Repeat what you are seeing and hearing; engage the child by asking questions. This way, you’ll know how much information your child is processing, and doing so will bring about a greater chance of learning. No. 6: Be a good role model Even at a young age, your child is studying your actions and imitating you. Set down your phone during meals and one-on-one time. If your toddler wants to play with your tablet, tell him it’s a tool, not a toy