Screens with bright images and interesting attention-grabbing noises are everywhere, everywhere we look. Could these devices also have an educational role?
Screen time is normal nowadays! Because screens are everywhere, it's not realistic to prevent access and use of electronic devices by young children altogether. However, there are many good reasons to pay attention to how much time children spend in front of phones, tablets and TVs. Experts point out not only the importance of how much time children spend in front of screens, but also encourage us to carefully select the content children see on digital devices.
Some TV shows, games and apps are more developmentally appropriate for children than others. When choosing to use digital media, such as apps or TV programmes, with young children, it is important to seek out and give them access to quality, age-appropriate content. It is also important to balance screen time with other activities such as reading, creative play, sports and time with family and friends.
Screen time can be part of a healthy lifestyle when balanced with
other activitiesthat are good for children's development.
How much time should children spend on electronic devices?
The American Academy of Pediatrics offers a set of recommendations on how much screen time children should spend in front of screens.
Very young children (0-4 years)
It's essential to significantly limit screen time in this age range. Experts recommend avoiding TV and other entertainment for children under 18 months.
For children aged two to four, we can find quality programmes that young children can watch for no more than an hour, but it is essential to be there for them in the process, talking and explaining to help them develop their language, imagination and critical thinking.
We should give children examples of good practice
Inevitably, children will have access to phones and tablets; however, we can guide them towards the correct use of electronic devices. We can emphasise the importance of connecting in the real world and avoid checking our messages at the table, make eye contact and show active listening in our conversations, without getting caught up in social media scrolling.
Classic toys are still "cool"
It is important for children to experience free and unstructured play
. When they create scenarios using a particular prop or stuffed animal, build from lego and put together pieces of a puzzle, children train their creativity and decision-making skills, move at their own pace, not rushed by the wave of visual and auditory stimuli of a screen, and train their collaborative spirit with other children.
Children aged 5 to 11 years
For healthy digital consumption, children need to understand the educational purposes of the internet and the apps they use, feel comfortable talking about what they see and do when they spend time in front of screens, and know the risks of prolonged exposure.
Between 7 and 11 children start using their phones and tablets not only to read about a topic they are passionate about, for a school project or an interactive game, but also to socialise with other classmates or friends. Digital media can be used to train children's executive functions, develop their self-control and problem-solving skills and improve their ability to follow directions.
"In an increasingly digitized world, children's use of screens is becoming second nature," says Dr. Sarah Lytle, PhD, director of outreach and education at the University of Washington's Brain Science Institute; however, she adds, "we need to support children and together find a set of reasonable limits on how much screen time is appropriate for them."
Experts' recommendations regarding screen time
Children learn best from their real experiences, exploring, using their whole body and all their senses. When they get to use electronic devices and interact with bright, stimulus-filled screens, it is important to help them connect the two worlds, real and digital, and make connections between what they see on the screen and what they see in the real world.
As mentioned earlier, when we are with our little ones and actively engage in conversations about what they understand from the videos they watch or the games they access, learning is reinforced. It's valuable for them to share information, ask questions and get answers.
Games and videos should be checked before they reach children's screens. before you purchase them for your child. There is a plethora of apps with educational purposes, here are a few of them. Screen time should not be a reward for children. Technology is appealing to kids as it is, but when we make screen time the thing kids get for good behavior - or take away for bad behavior - we make it even more desirable, increasing the chances that a child will overvalue it.
It is essential that screen time does not interfere with other activities. Children need to have more interests and explore more and more things. Sport, art, reading are just a few of many examples, and when youngsters find a new passion, it's important to help them use technology to learn about that new pleasure.
Screen time can be educational for children when a balance of screen time is established, and apps and videos are age-appropriate for children when we actively engage in the process and encourage healthy use.