According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under the age of 18 months should have no passive screen time and children up to five years of age should have a limited screen time of less than 1 hour a day. This is hard to hear during a lockdown like what we are experiencing now during the Coronavirus outbreak as we are all looking for ways to entertain our children while they are not in childcare. However, reminding ourselves of the pros and cons of screen time and taking the time to find a healthy balance now, could really help our children over the longer term.
Passive screen time is where children are simply consuming media, not interacting with it. This type of screen time is strongly discouraged for very young children because it can be overstimulating and impact their behaviour negatively, while not teaching them much. Given that the recommendation by professional bodies is to limit screen time for children under 5 to less than one hour, it is all the more important to consider what they are watching during that hour, and to ensure that it is a mixture, if not majorly, active screen time.
Active screen time involves creating things, learning by themselves and/or co-learning (alongside their parents). Although there are countless apps, games and videos online that appear to be contributing to learning and creativity, many of them actually do not teach our children effectively and actually fall in the category of passive screen time and are wasting the precious minutes they could be using screens in a positive way.
In choosing the media our kids consume during the limited time each day, here are a few things we should consider:
1. Quality — is the program/ media high quality content, not in terms of HQ but in terms of how it is put together, presented and created specifically to help children in key areas of development? The ratings on it should help you to decipher this. Also, before showing it to your children, you should have a go at it yourself.
2. Type of Interaction — does the program/media encourage your child to sit and hold the screen for long periods (which is known to impact their posture and even cause bone growth) or does the program encourage them to be more active, read more books, practise their writing, bond with their parents/friends or develop their confidence in expressing their emotions or connecting with others?
3. Impact on Behaviour — how does your child behave after exposure to the content? Do they have a tantrum? Do they seem more engaged offline or less engaged? Is it helping them to listen better and improving their attention and focus or is it decreasing their attention span?
4. Addictiveness — is your child crying and begging for more while holding onto the screen for dear life? Do they get sucked in for the whole hour or more? When something is educational and well-made, children are likely to be happy to part with it as their brain is challenged to learn. It is similar to how we adults experience learning — we switch off when we feel our brain is maxed out. This way children can enjoy the media while also being happy to part with it after a reasonable and healthy amount of time.
5. Parent Empowerment — does the program help you as the parents to get involved and guide your child’s learning? Does it build your confidence in learning online? Do you learn anything from it yourself – this is an added bonus!
All of these things have been considered in the creation of the Wobble and Kick Online Team, where we don’t only teach football successfully online, we encourage children to be active, to persevere in their learning, to connect to others and to learn alongside their parents (you learn something too). Check it out, it’s FREE to join. We would love for you to consider us for your active screen time activity 🙂
Share your favourite screentime activities for 1-5 year olds in the comments below…
Coach Bianca xx