Limiting Screen Time for Toddlers, and What it Means for your Sanity
Although limiting screen time for toddlers is important while their brain and motor functions are developing, it’s also important to know your own limits and understand that balance is the key to your own sanity.
Should you limit screen time for your children? Well, particularly during times of major development (such as the first 5 years), limiting screen time for kids could benefit them greatly in the long term, but that may come at the cost of your own sanity. When it comes to limiting screen time for toddlers, it’s important to maintain the balance between doing what’s best for their development and doing what’s best for YOUR sanity. Don’t freak out on me though, moms. Your kids need you to be OK, and sometimes that means letting them watch cartoons while you take a quick parenting break or unload the dishwasher.
It’s important to note that none of us are “parenting experts.” Surely those do not actually exist. Nonetheless, every hour that you spend on your own screens, whether it’s on your phone, computer, tablet or in front of the TV, is an hour that you are not spending with your children, helping them development crucial interactions. Screen time is unavoidable in today’s world, so no one is saying your child can’t have any screen time. Instead, continue finding alternative ways to keep kids entertained and cognitively aware while finding time to take care of yourself - away from screens.
The Cons of Screen Time for Toddlers
A recent study by the University of Calgary found something startling: When children were measured at 24 months and 36 months, greater screen time at 24 months led to poorer results of their developmental screening tests at 36 months. This trend continued among children measured at 36 months and 60 months. You’d be hard pressed to find a study that encourages screen time for toddlers, but some experts do believe that technology studies like the one from the University of Calgary draw stronger than expected conclusions from the results.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests avoiding digital media for toddlers younger than 18 months, and for children 18-24 months old, consider utilizing screens only when you are together, such as playing a mobile game together.
Limiting screen time for toddlers is the main topic of technology discussions these days, but they certainly apply to older children as well. My parents always said things like “TV will rot your brain” and while that was not technically true, it is true that too much technology holds children back from developing certain skills.
3 Cons of Screen Time for Toddlers:
- Developmental Delays: As research suggests, more screen time could results in lower developmental scores.
- Disciplinary Problems: Using technology as an “emotional pacifier” to calm children’s behavior is not an effective long-term strategy because it may become the only way to calm children down. Children need to learn how to cure boredom, find solutions and calm themselves without technology.
- Reduced Language: Because children learn best from back-and-forth conversation, too much listening to devices instead of talking with family could delay or reduce their use of language.
How to Limit Screen Time for Toddlers
I know I love my laptop. I love my phone. It’s hard to practice reducing screen time with your children if you can’t pry yourself from your own screens. Continue looking for ways to do activities as a family, encourage children to play with each other and choose toys and games that can self-sustain kids for short bursts of time. Every hour you are limiting screen time for your toddler is an hour you’re allowing them to develop important cognitive skills.
Alternatives to Screen Time
Try these ways to keep kids busy with technology-free activities that are better for their development:
- Read to kids more often to avoid screens. Reading to children has shown to increase IQs.
- Bring stickers, paper and pens to restaurants to entertain toddlers without technology
- Use sorting activities to keep kids busy and engaged, and you can use the opportunity to teach them about colors by sorting them
- Instead of giving them a phone in the car, start observation games like “I Spy” to keep them focused on other things during the car ride
- Give them pipe cleaners and clay to entertain themselves by creating
- Have kids go around the house and put a sticky note on everything that starts with a certain letter or is a certain color
Limiting screen time for toddlers and older children is going to be an ongoing challenge, but there are alternative ways to keep them occupied so you can stay sane, happy and even on top of your own chores.
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Rianna Stavrides said:
I totally agree with this article. Screentime for my toddler is very limited. For the first 2 years, we could go by weeks of not turning on the television or iPad for him. Now that he is 3, we allow him up to an hour total each day. No watching during meals and in the car too! It has been beneficial for him and I plan to do the same to my daughter.
I love that you gave so many alternatives! My little girls loves reading books but I am going to have to try the other laternatives. I always try avoiding screen time while at restaurant because I want Liv to learn that there is a time and place but sometimes it is so hard to keep her entertained while at a restaurant.
I totally need to limit my own screen time for my sanity. The digital well-being app has been such a lifesaver!
Great read! It’s very true! I’m starting the limit screen time for my kids as well. We don’t know the consequences of the phone, iPad, or electronics yet.
Brittany Fiero said:
I feel like I’ve done a great job limiting screen time so far. I only use it as a last resort like in the morning and we’re scrambling to get ready for work or the time we all had the flu. If the tv is on I try to keep a dialogue going with toddler and choose shows like Sesame Street. We like to dance together to the songs!