Screen Time for Children under 5 Years – And should they have any at all before school care age?
This is a sticky subject for some parents because modern technology can make for a rather intellectual and convenient babysitter from time to time. And quite rightly, children can learn an awful lot through the ever growing selection of educational programs, apps and games on offer. But for the younger ones especially – can this really compare to the benefits of early learning centres, where they will learn social skills and interaction with other human beings?
The simple answer is no. But as they grow, there are certainly benefits from controlled exposure to the new digital world we live in. As with anything, the key, as we all know, is moderation. Government guidelines have always suggested that children under 2 years should avoid screen time altogether – screen time being any activity involving TV’s, tablets, smart phones and such. But now parents and even day care centres are beginning to recognize that this is becoming increasingly difficult.
Parents with older children, who are already well versed with entertainment technology, will of course try to share their skills with their younger siblings. Even centres specializing in before school care are now integrating apps and tablet technology into their teaching methods. It sometimes seems like an inevitable and unavoidable part of our lives now, and our children’s lives too.
For children of 2-5 years the AAP (American Academy of Paediatrics) guidelines, which are consistent with the Australian equivalent, suggest no more than 2 hours of screen time per day!.. I know. But we want to do the best for our children. The good news is that many of these guidelines have quickly become outdated, and in fact the AAP have now updated their guidelines based on the technology explosion that accompanied the release of the first iOS devices.
With these devices came the production of alphabetical and numerical teaching apps, reading apps and even apps that require a certain amount of social understanding and communication skills. This should never and hopefully will never, replace the one-on-one interaction that a child experiences in an early learning centre or playschool.
For example Cherry Bridge Station’s ‘Ropes Crossing Child Care’ in New South Wales, along with all their other early learning centres, has a consistent plan of play filled education that encourages everything good about non-screen time! They run age appropriate educational programs, separate education rooms for each age group, healthy and nutritious meals, qualified and dedicated educators, and they are child benefit approved to boot.
Maybe with options like trusted family day care on offer for the youngsters, we can all worry a bit less and enjoy our play times, and even screen times, with a clearer conscience!