balancing technology and play
Screen time tends to get a bad rap, but the key is balancing it with other needs in a child’s life. “Technology lets us stay more connected to family and friends. We have information literally at our finger tips. Our children need to learn – no, they need to master - this world of technology,” says Melissa King, DO, pediatrician at Dayton Children’s Pediatrics and director of the Healthy Me program. “But, it’s also important for our kiddos to get enough physical activity and sleep – two areas that pay the price when there is too much screen time.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released new guidelines on physical activity and making sure that children under the age of five are not sitting in front of screens too much. “Younger kids need more time being active and better sleeping habits in order to grow up healthy,” says Dr. King. All of these things combined will help reduce childhood obesity rates and other diseases as children get older.
Dr. King sums up the recommendations from the WHO below.
- Infants less than 1 year old:
- Screen time is discouraged.
- Should be physically active multiple times a day in different ways.
- For infants, at least 30 minutes of tummy time throughout the day is essential.
- Anywhere from 12 to 17 hours of quality sleep is important for growth and development.
- Children 1-2 years old:
- Children under 18 months old should not get any screen time.
- Children that are 2 years old shouldn’t get more than an hour of screen time per day, but less is better.
- Should be physically active for at least 180 minutes (three hours) throughout the day in different types of activities.
- At least 11-14 hours of good sleep is encouraged.
- Children 3-4 years old:
- One hour of screen time is more than enough – less is always better!
- 180 minutes of different types of physical activity is encouraged throughout the day.
- At least 10-14 hours of good sleep is needed.
Parents need to manage their own screen time with intention and caution, too. When we engage with our phones and laptops more, we talk with our children less. They hear fewer words from us which can stifle their vocabulary development. We miss opportunities to connect with our adolescent children in discussing life and school. We respond slower to our children and have less patience when distracted, which could lead to more conflict and child misbehavior. Be the role model you would want your children to become.
“As with all other aspects of parenting, understand the research and recommendations. Put these recommendations into play with what works for your family and make sure your choices are helping you and your child to become the best version of oneself,” says Dr. King.