The Hot Topic of Screen Time

As a therapist and as mom of a nearly-3-year-old this is a very relevant topic in my life and I thought I should weigh in. In this day and age information is everywhere. We are constantly bombarded on all sides with various opinions and articles and hear-say about every single topic you can think of. Especially as a first-time mom. A friend of mine recently hit social media for advice on her new born and I couldn’t help but weigh in with my 2-cents which was “You don’t know those women, why would you take their advice?”. Well, why are you reading this blog and why should you take my advice? In all honesty I hope that, like me, you seek out good sources, read all view points and then draw your own conclusion. A conclusion that should suit your family’s needs and not make you feel guilty about not being “the perfect mom” (no such thing!!).  So back to the topic I want to tackle today: Screen time.

As a speech therapist we are encouraged to encourage our patients to have zero screen time. I’m not in total agreement with this. Guidelines (which are reportedly being revised) suggest no more than 2 hours of screen time a day and no screen time for children under the age of two. That is what I do tell my patients. I do have the odd case where we have to adjust routines around screen time and guidelines need to be put in place for that time. The truth is that we don’t live in a perfect world. Now I do think that too much screen time has its adverse effects on our kids.  I think as parents we need to think very carefully about how we implement screen time and what its purpose in your household really is. I am against letting kids control their own screen time. I don’t like to hear of two year olds that have a TV in their room and fall asleep watching it (Heck, I don’t like to hear of adults who do this too but hey).

I do think that there are benefits to certain types of screen time and I make use of various apps on my iPad regularly in therapy sessions. I often recommend apps and websites to parents.  Here are my rules:

  • Ensure that screen time is supervised (as much as possible)
  • Make sure that you have approved the apps/ videos that your child is exposed to
  • Have a limit on the screen time (2 hours a day as per those guidelines)
  • I suggest allowing screen time earlier in the day rather than later, not near bedtime as this can interfere with sleep
  • Ensure that you interact around your child’s screen time: ask them questions about what they are watching, sing along to songs on the videos they watch, comment on their progress on the game.
  • Provide a good model to your child regarding your own screen time use: for example, don’t tell them to turn off the TV while you are checking Facebook on your smart phone.
  • Don’t suddenly remove the device from your child once the time is up. It may cause those tantrums you wanted to avoid when you handed the phone over in the first place. Rather ease your child out of their bubble by engaging them: “oooh, that’s a cool song” and then getting them ready to let go: “we have to go now so I’m going to count to five and then turn the phone off”. If they protest try the phrase “what did I say?” and then count to five and take it away. They will learn that your word is your word.

Some tools that are helpful when it comes to regulating screen time:

  1. ScreenTime from https://screentimelabs.com/

This is fantastic. It is an app that you download onto your device that helps you control your child’s use of any device.  See their website for in-depth information on what they offer.

  1. YouTube Kids:

A kiddy version of Youtube that lets you sign on with your child’s own profile. You can save videos offline or you can let them watch online while blocking certain content. Some rubbish still comes through so it needs more constant monitoring.

 

Some more information on this topic can be found at these blogs:

http://talkingtalk.co.za/is-screen-time-causing-speech-delays/

https://xander.co.za/blog/what-is-healthy-technology/

https://www.speechandlanguagekids.com/screen-time-and-language-development 

https://activeforlife.com/screen-time-advice-you-can-use

 

What are your opinions and experiences with screen time in your family? How do you manage this?

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