Our Children and Technology: Part 3–Overexposure to Technology with Infants and Young Children
Overexposure to Technology: Infants and Young Children
Our Habits as Caregivers
It is caregivers’ relationship with technology and consumption of digital technology that shapes children’s usage of technology—especially when children are 12 and under. As caregivers, we take a good hard look at ourselves. Do we have the TV on all the time? Are we constantly glued to our phones? Have we ever interrupted precious time with one of our children to answer the seductive ping of an incoming text? I know I have! Click on the link below for more information on the impact of caregivers‘ habits.
Damage to Young Children’s Brains
There is a great deal of concern about early exposure to screens, especially among children from birth to three years of age. Recent research using sophisticated neural imaging techniques shows us that excessive screen exposure can neurologically damage a young person’s developing brain in the same way cocaine addiction can. In the words of addiction expert Dr. Nicholas Kadaras, we are “giving digital morphine to kids.” Screens have been called “electronic cocaine,” and addiction has skyrocketed in the U.S. and in other countries around the world.
Young Children and Phones
Ma and colleagues studied 1,077 children whose average age was 18 months. The study found that there was a significant correlation between time children spent on devices such as phones and expressive language delay. The more time children spent on phones, the more delayed their verbal skills were. To truly give your children the best language development advantage, keep them away from screens for as long as possible. We have to be good role models! If we are always on our phones, children will want to be on phones too! Click on the link below for more information on the impact of screen time.
Impact of Screen Time on School Performance
Early exposure to screen time can have a very negative impact on children’s readiness for school. A study collected data from 807 children from diverse backgrounds. They found (especially in lower income families) that the more TV children watched before kindergarten, worse they performed in math and executive functioning skills (the ability to plan and think ahead) when they arrived on the school’s doorstep. The association between number of hours of TV watched and drops in school readiness was strongest for the children who watched more than 2 hours a day. Click on the link below for more in-depth information on the impact of screen time for babies and toddlers.
The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends no more than 1 hour a day of screen time for children ages 2-5.5 Positive Strategies for Caregivers
For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting.
- Caregivers of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children (joint media engagement) to help them understand what they’re seeing. Less than 1/2 hour a day is best.
- For children ages two to five years, limit screen use to one hour per day of high-quality
- Be sure to place consistent limits on the time spent with screens.
- Current wisdom tells us that the less screen time, the better—especially before the age of 5. However, if we choose to let our young children have screen time (e.g., TV, phones, iPads), we should always make sure there is joint media engagement–we need to watch with our children. Screens should never, ever be used as babysitters!
- For young children, reading traditional paper books and playing with nonelectronic toys is best for encouraging language skills. Minimize the use of electronic toys and screens as much as possible. Real toys and even things in nature (grass, flowers, dirt) are superior!