Screen Time: How Much is Too Much?

From our friends at Black Bear Academy


With the chaos of day to day life, a handheld device and a favorite cartoon on the TV can seem like an easy way to keep children entertained. These electronics are simple go-to to avoid a meltdowns at the grocery store and restaurants. This may sound like a harmless strategy for young children, as most Americans have TVs in their homes and many three-year-olds know how to navigate smart phones and tablets. However, recent research from the American Pediatric Association recommends avoiding exposing children younger than 18 months to televisions, iPads, and other handheld devices. This research shows that handheld screen time between the ages of 6 months to two-years-old is highly linked to expressive speech and language delays and that each 30-minute increase in handheld screen time translated into a 49 percent increased risk of expressive speech delay. These early months of a child’s life are crucial to their development, especially their speech and language. It is important to engage children in interactive experiences in ways that encourage language opportunities. Below are ideas to replace the screen with functional, language-enhancing activities:

  • At the grocery store: Shop together! Have your child participate in making the grocery list and finding the items. Labeling, categorizing, and describing these foods can also be a fun way to encourage language and keep busy hands occupied.
  • At a restaurant: Read menu options out loud to your child and encourage them to order for themselves (verbally or pointing on the menu). Coloring books are a good way to entertain kiddos without handing them a device.
  • Dinner at home: Cook together! Encourage your child to participate in prepping for dinner in safe ways. While at the dinner table, try playing relaxing music. Fun placemats and utensils can be great for keeping little ones entertained! (These can also help with some picky eating)
  • Before bed: Reading books is an obvious alternative, however, some kids have a hard time sitting for a whole book. Try choosing props, such as puppets or corresponding pictures for your kiddos to manipulate during the book. If they have a hard time sitting while reading the actual words, try labeling pictures, asking questions, or simple talking about the pictures on each page.
  • Free time at home: Provide your child with household tasks to complete. Did you know children can start participating in household chores as early as 1-year-old? You can encourage your child to contribute in tasks, such as wiping down tables, putting clothes in hampers, watering plants, placing dirty dishes in the dishwasher, and other safe tasks!

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