By: Travis Nodine, M.C.D., CCC-SLP
As a speech-language pathologist, one of the most frequently asked questions I receive from parents is, “How long can I let my child watch television or play with a tablet?”
In a survey developed by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) in 2015, 68% of parents stated that their two-year-olds used tablets, 59% used smartphones, and 44% played video games on various video game consoles. In the same survey, 24% of two-year-olds reportedly used a tablet during dinner; that statistic nearly doubled by age eight (45%). Meanwhile, at the age of six, 44% of parents stated that their children would rather play a game on a technology device than read a book, and more than the majority of eight-year-olds would rather have technology than play with a friend.
What does this mean? The research is indicating that, as children grow older, their desire to communicate with others in real life becomes less and less desirable, and their desire to utilize technology becomes more and more desirable. But knowing these numbers, why do we continue to provide technology to our children? Half of the parents surveyed stated that they give their two-year-olds technology because of behavioral issues. However, the parents of eight-year-old children stated that it became too difficult to remove the devices, leading to even worse tantrums than when their children were younger. It’s not fun in the moment, but it will be so much better in the long run if you can set limits for your young child today than to try and set limits for technology later in life.
So, what can parents do? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):
Children under the age of 18 months should have no screen time other than video chatting.
Parents of children between the ages of 18 and 24 months who would like to introduce media should choose age-appropriate programs and watch it with their children. Then talk about what they saw. Engage with them; help them understand what they saw.
Between the ages of two and five, parents should limit screen use to 1 hour a day with high quality shows while continuing to engage with their children.
Place consistent limits as they grow older, such as media-free dinners or put away all devices one to two hours before bedtime.
I always tell parents that for every 30 minutes of screen time, that’s 60 minutes of play time (i.e., reading together, coloring together, completing a puzzle together, playing outside together, talking together during dinner/bath times, etc.).
For more information, please visit:
American Academy of Pediatrics (2016). Retrieved from https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-Announces-New-Recommendations-for-Childrens-Media-Use.aspx.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (2015). Retrieved from https://www.asha.org/About/news/Press-Releases/2015/New-ASHA-Survey-of-US-Parents-Significant-Percentages-Report-That-Very-Young-Children-Are-Using-Technology/.