The discussion about screen time for kids is a very touchy one because everyone has their own opinions on what should or shouldn’t be done.
As a mother of a toddler myself, I started noticing recently that he is getting more and more interested in my iPad.
So should I get him one? Or perhaps let him use mine?
First of all, toddlers are naturally drawn to novelty. Anything new or different really attracts them. They love anything with bright colors. They enjoy looking at moving pictures. That’s why when your toddler realizes that the iPad can make sounds, light up, and change colors, they get really attracted to it. They find it irresistible.
On the flip side, there’s you. The parent. When you realize that your iPad can buy you a few quiet minutes to yourself, you can’t help but grab those few minutes because let’s be honest- sometimes we die for some peace and quiet because being a parent means sacrificing time for yourself to take care of your kids. iPads are a great way to keep children occupied.
So we have established that iPads somehow benefit both parties. But here’s the real question, where do you draw the line? When do you say enough is enough?
Or is technology even good for your child? Does it have any other advantages apart from keeping them occupied and giving you that much-needed freedom? Are you being a responsible parent by giving your toddler an iPad? So-many-questions…….
If this is you asking yourself all these questions, keep reading because I did a lot of research and I am going to try to answer them for you so that you won’t have a really hard time making this decision.
What Do The Experts Say?
The American Academy of Paediatrics states that children under the age of 18 months should have zero screen time. This may sound a little harsh but there is a reason behind it. Their research shows that children this young should have zero screen time not because of what the screens can do to babies, but because of what screens can prevent babies from doing.
Their research also states that children aged 18 months to 2 years should only be allowed a limited amount of screentime. And it should be supervised. Those toddlers aged between 2-5 years should only be allowed a maximum of 1 hour of screentime a day.
Screens slow down the development of children by reducing the amount of time they spend engaging in activities that are cognitively stimulation or in simple terms, activities that stimulate their thinking process.
This is not the only research done.
Researchers from the University of Toronto backed this up in 2017. Their studies showed that the excessive use of iPads or screens for that matter, before the age of 2 stunts speech development.
Long Term Effects of Screen Time For Children
I did a lot of digging and this is what I came up with.
Currently, there are no conclusive studies on the long term effects of iPads for toddlers. However, there are a number of ongoing studies on this particular subject. So, for now, there are no conclusions on whether iPads are bad or good for toddlers in the long term.
The reason behind this is, the iPad is sort of a new invention because it only came into existence in 2010. This doesn’t give these studies enough time to come up with a proper conclusion because these studies normally take a really long time to come up with conclusive results. So I guess we will just have to be patient on this one.
So should we get our toddlers iPads while we wait for conclusive answers?
Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Instead, let’s take a closer look at what we know right now before jumping into conclusions.
Fact, iPads are not recommended for babies under 18 months, at least in the short term. Fact, too much of anything is poisonous. That’s a no brainer. So obviously too much screen time for kids is bad.
So what does this mean?
This means that there are guidelines and recommendations for how to go about this issue. If you choose to get an iPad for your child, then be sure to follow these guidelines. However, let’s be honest with ourselves. Sometimes it is really hard to adhere to these recommended numbers. Sometimes we feel like they need this so bad and saying no to them and watching them cry breaks our hearts. They obviously don’t get why you won’t just let them enjoy their screen time.
Other times, it’s us who really need that 10-minute break so where do we run to? You guessed it. Our iPads.
Benefits of screen time for kids
While carrying out my research-because, believe me, I have had to fight with this issue for quite some time now- I came to find out that there are studies that say that iPads can actually be good for your child. But, if used in moderation.
One of them is research done by the Joan Ganz Cooney Centre. This study found that certain apps can help improve a toddler’s math skills and vocabulary.
This is not all, there are several other benefits. Let’s take a look at them, shall we?
1. An iPad can be turned into a child’s learning tool if used properly.
I’ll tell you an interesting story. My son loves screen time. And I won’t even try to pretend that I don’t enjoy the peace and quiet. So, one time he was really fussy and I put on this counting video he liked. And guess what? He counted with them. It was just from 1 to 3 but…my son counted! And he was 19 months. So I can attest to this fact. They sometimes take some things away from these videos. My son also loooves this video. There’s no stopping him from dancing when he hears this song.
2. An iPad can be a great emergency distraction tool. You sometimes find yourself juggling several things at once because, again, you are a parent. So if you want a few minutes to focus on something else and be sure that your baby won’t be running off trying to do something that might hurt them, screen time might help. As parents, we spend 100% of our time trying to stop our babies from killing themselves, and sometimes an iPad can be a great helper. This can be a great time saving tips for moms.
3. iPads are fun for children, and who wouldn’t want their kid to have fun?
4. Some age-appropriate games can be creative and interactive. They are a great way to make kids think and come up with solutions.
Disadvantages of using iPads for toddlers
1. iPads can be quite addictive. Continued use of iPads by toddlers for long periods may lead them to be addicted. When they become too attached to the iPad, it can be hard to break this habit.
For example, if your child is used to using the iPad whenever they are in the car, they will find it hard to do anything else whenever they are in the car. Do not make the use of the iPad a part of your routine.
2. iPads are expensive toys. Kids are known to spoil everything. They throw stuff around, break them and sometimes even spill things on them. If your child keeps spoiling your iPad then you’ll find yourself digging deeper into your pockets to get them this expensive toy.
3. iPads provide very limited physical interaction and sensory environment. Playing with an iPad cannot compare to playing with physical toys like blocks.
This is because toys provide more physical interaction and present a lot of opportunities for your child to learn and develop essential skills. The social interaction that comes with playing with toys provide opportunities for toddlers to develop human relationships. They learn to relate with other people and to build relationships.
So, iPad or no iPad?
This totally depends on you as a parent.
But personally, I think that a parent should not feel guilty about allowing their child to use an iPad if they are doing it in MODERATION.
Do not let the iPad be the only activity your child gets to do. Let it be among very many activities they engage in. Create time for them to play with toys like stuffed animals, let them paint, let them run around and make as much noise as they want. Let them be kids.
Set ground rules and let them know that they can’t have the iPad all the time.
So let’s assume you have decided to let your toddler use your iPad. How do you know when to stop? How much is enough?
Setting limits on just how much toddler screen time they can have can be hard. First of all, because kids do not understand. Your child won’t understand why mommy or daddy won’t let them use the iPad as much as they want.
So if you decide to let your child use an iPad, then ensure that it’s done in moderation because too much screen time for children isn’t good not only for kids but adults as well.
So how do you go about moderating screen time for your child?
Well, here are 10 ways to reduce screen time for kids
1. Give your kids books, toys, and board games and encourage them to use those instead of using the iPad all the time.
2. Set an example for them by practicing healthy electronic use. Kids learn by copying what adults do. So they need to learn good habits from you.
3. Commend and compliment your child whenever they make good decisions regarding screen time.
4. Come up with technology-free zones where no one is allowed to have electronic devices. The best place is at the dining table. Insist that it is reserved for meals and conversations.
5. Use programs and apps to control the amount of screen time your child gets.
6. Come up with specific times during the day for the entire family to unplug and bond. You can decide that an hour after dinner is family time and no one is allowed to have electronic devices around. You’ll be surprised how much you will get to know your kids during this time.
7. Have a specific place where everyone is supposed to use their electronic device. Having screens in shared places is great because it makes it easier for you to know how much time they are spending on their screens, and what shows or videos they are watching.
8. Encourage your kids to engage in other activities. You can read books together, play board games and engage in other learning activities.
9. Try to make iPads as inaccessible as possible. Do not reward your child with screen time.
10. Remain firm. If you decide that there’s no kids screen time, then stand by your decision. You are the parent. This means that you know what is right. Your child is the one that will benefit if you decide to stand by your decisions.
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