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Babies & Preschoolers: Building Healthy Habits for Using Digital Media

When it comes to children, all sorts of media like TVs, computers, and smartphones can affect how they behave, think, feel, and even learn. Luckily at the end of the day, as a parent, you are still the biggest influence on your kids.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), it’s very important to help your children develop healthy habits for digital media usage early on. Below we have some basic guidelines to get started.

Guidelines for Young Children and Media Use

2 years or younger:

  • At this stage, media use should be kept to a minimum, and only used when an adult is there to help teach and watch. A perfect example would be doing a video chat with your children and other family members.

Ages 1 to 2 years:

  • Introduction to digital media is still very optional at this stage.
  • Choose only high-quality programming and be there with your children.
  • Avoid leaving your child alone while using media.

Children from 2 to 5 years old:

  • Limit the time of looking at a screen to only an hour or less a day.
  • Find alternative activities for your kids that promote healthy bodies and minds.
  • Stick to media that is interactive and educational while avoiding violence.

How About Apps and Digital Books?

Just because an app is advertised as “educational” doesn’t mean that it’s actually proven to be effective, and most don’t encourage co-viewing or co-playing, which is key when it comes to learning. Another point to remember is that educational apps typically target just basics like ABCs or shapes. While this is great in many cases, it’s still just one small part of getting prepared for school. The real skills that young children need to succeed in school are things like controlling impulses, managing emotions, creativity, open-mindedness, and how to interact socially with other people.

As for digital books, or ebooks, while they may have interesting sounds and visuals, they can also be more distracting than anything else and the whole story can be missed due to this. Even though normal print books can be dull in comparison, they may be better when it comes to learning because of the lack of distractions.

If you are looking for ebooks for your children:

  • Choose ebooks that have lower amounts of frills and thrills.
  • Be there to read the ebook with your child. Parent-child interaction is essential when it comes to reading and literacy at a young age.

Why Limit Digital Media Usage?

Studies are still sparse when it comes to the effects of digital media use with young children, but so far there is evidence that the risks include:

  • Loss of sleep. Extended periods of exposure to digital media or having a TV, computer, or mobile device in the bedroom often leads to less sleep and falling asleep at later times. Babies are even more susceptible to these effects – they can be overstimulated by the bright screens and end up missing out on the precious sleep that they need to grow.
  • Delayed learning and social skills. It is believed that watching too much TV during infancy and preschool years can cause delays in skills like attention, thinking, language, and social interaction. One reason for this may be that there is less interaction with parents and family, and parents that keep the TV on or pay too much attention to their own digital media miss out on chances to connect with their kid.
  • Physical health. Heavy media usage in preschool years is considered to be linked weight gain and even a higher risk of childhood obesity. This makes sense because overuse of digital media would also include lowered levels of healthy, physical activities.
  • Behavioral problems. Content that contains violence can influence kids negatively, and even cause behavioral problems. Some think this has to do with being scared and confused about what they are seeing, or maybe they try to mirror what they see.

Additional Tips for Parents and Caregivers

  • Don’t feel pressured to introduce technology early on. Luckily for us adults, these media devices are typically easy to learn and use, so getting a head-start on using these devices has no advantages. Baby laptop toys are exceptions as they are simply toys.
  • Monitor the media your child uses. Whether this is in the form of some sort of parental filter, or you just manually choosing what your child uses, make sure you aren’t just letting them download or watch whatever they please. Try to test apps before they try it out, and try to figure out what kinds of apps your children enjoy for more ideas.
  • Turn devices off when not in use. Just having these things on in the background can be distracting and take away from important parent-child bonding time.
  • Have designated times that should be free from media use. Times like being in the bedroom, mealtime, and parent-child playtime should be media-free for increased social interaction.
  • Avoid the bright screens at least one hour before bedtime. Exposure to these bright lights basically confuses the body and can interrupt sleeping schedules.
  • Avoid using media devices as a way to calm your children. Even though it may be a convenient way to soothe your child, it also lowers their ability to cope with their emotions.

The post Babies & Preschoolers: Building Healthy Habits for Using Digital Media appeared first on First Baby Laptop.