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Children & Media: How Much Is Too Much

As the holiday season approaches, you may have already begun searching for gifts for your kids. However, before you rush out to buy the latest electronic toys, you should be aware of some important guidelines regarding the amount of screen time that is healthy for children.

Guidelines

Children Under Two  

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children should not spend any time in front of a screen (TV, computer, tablet, smartphone, etc.) before they turn two. Evidence suggests that when children under the age of two are regularly exposed to technology it can negatively affect their language development, attention span, and short term memory.

Recently there has been a trend in letting babies and toddlers use tablets and smartphones to help them learn their numbers, colors and words and to keep them entertained. However, there is no data to suggest touch-screen technology actually helps young children learn. In fact, it may actually lead to language learning delays. Young children learn better from interactive play—that is engaging with people and objects—than screen time.

Older Children

For older children, the AAP recommends that their screen time should be limited to 1-2 hours of educational, nonviolent programming per day. Too much screen time has been linked to:

  • Obesity
  • Attention problems
  • Poor grades
  • Sleep problems

What Parents Can Do

There are many steps that you can take to keep your children's media habits in check. Here are just a few suggestions from HealthyChildren.org:

  • Set firm limits on your child's screen time
  • Help your child plan their media usage each week and create a schedule
  • Don't let them eat in front of any screen
  • Keep TVs and computers out of your kids' bedroom
  • Set a good example by limiting your own screen time

It can be difficult to limit your children's screen time, especially if they are already used to unlimited access to the computer, TV or video games. However, it is worth the effort.

Alternative Gift Ideas

As you shop for your child this holiday season, keep the AAP guidelines in mind. That's not to say that you shouldn't get your child any media-related gifts if they are over the age of two. However, make sure your child's screen time is at a healthy level. In case you would like to explore some alternative gift ideas this holiday season, here are some suggestions:

  • Board games
  • Books
  • Sporting equipment
  • Musical instruments
  • Art supplies
  • Building blocks (for younger children)
  • Scrap book kit

These gift ideas can inspire creativity among children and allow for the whole family to get involved and spend quality time together.

For more family time inspirations, view our list of educational toys.

Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics, Healthy Children, Mayo Clinic

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