Ways you can en­sure a healthy me­dia con­sump­tion

Mother & Baby - - CONTENTS - says Dr Shee­tal Bid­kar, clin­i­cal pcsy­chol­o­gist, Suasth One Step Clinic

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.


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.


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

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