How to manage your preschooler’s screen time

Child development experts recommend balancing active and interactive play

Manage screen time for better learning and creativity

Preschoolers learn by interacting with the world around them. They need to be physically active — to run, climb, and swing on the playground — and to have creative outlets like drawing or dress-up.

Time spent with screens (like a TV, tablet or smartphone) can be an opportunity to reinforce learning and promote creative play, but too much screen time can have unhealthy side effects.

Age-appropriate screen time guidelines

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting the amount of time that preschoolers spend in front of a screen. It is good advice — but in today’s world, it can be tough to keep kids away from all the TVs, tablets, computers, smartphones and gaming systems they see.

With screens virtually everywhere, controlling your child’s screen time can be challenging. To complicate matters, some screen time can be educational for children as well as support their social development. So how do you manage your child’s screen time?

Preschoolers ages 3 to 5 should have no more than one hour of screen time each day. The exception to this rule is video chatting with grandparents or other family friends, which is considered quality time interacting with others.

How to use screen time appropriately

Set reasonable limits for your child’s screen time, especially if your child’s use of screens is hindering involvement in other activities. Consider these tips:

  • Prioritize unplugged, unstructured playtime
  • Create tech-free zones or times, such as during mealtime or one night a week
  • Set and enforce daily or weekly screen time limits and curfews, such as no exposure to devices or screens one hour before bedtime
  • Require your children to charge their devices outside of their bedrooms at night
  • Limit your own screen time
  • Turn off the television during mealtime and avoid using TV as background noise
  • Use a timer to set breaks from screen time

Tips and suggestions of how to manage screen time

You can help your child find the balance between screen use and other activities by working with them on some family rules or a family media plan. Your family’s rules might cover:

  • Where your child can use screens — for example, only in family rooms and not in bedrooms or the car
  • When your child can use screens — for example, mealtimes are free of TV, computers and phones, or no screen time before preschool or until chores are finished
  • How your child can use screens — for example, to play a dance competition game or a puzzle app, but not to watch YouTube

Screen time can be part of a healthy lifestyle for preschoolers when balanced with other activities that are good for your child’s development, like physical play, reading and socializing. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.

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Posted In Children's, Parenting

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