Screen time is an ever-growing concern for parents. But a recent study from researchers at the National Institutes of Health, the University at Albany, and the New York Langone Medical Center indicates that high amounts of screen time begin even earlier than many of us realize.
Researchers found that children spent an average of 53 minutes a day watching TV at just 12 months of age, and that number increased to more than 150 minutes by age three.
According to Edwina Yeung, Ph.D., the study’s senior author, “Our results indicate that screen habits begin early. This finding suggests that interventions to reduce screen time could have a better chance of success if introduced early.” One method is to avoid exposing children under 18 months to digital media whenever possible, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. After 18 months, they recommend introducing children to screen time only slowly, if at all. For kids ages two to five, parents should limit daily screen time to one hour per day tops.
World Health Organization Recommendations
The World Health Organization (WHO) agrees that babies up to two years old shouldn’t have sedentary screen time. Once they reach two years, it’s okay to have some sedentary screen time, but less than an hour is best. Maintaining this rule while children are under the age of four will help to encourage a healthy relationship with screen time. “Children need to be given opportunities throughout the day to actively play and we should be reducing sedentary, passive screen time,” explains Dr. Juana Willumsen, one of the authors of the guidelines.
Instead of entertaining your child with a screen, Willumsen suggests viewing sedentary time as an opportunity to bond with your child. Reading a book or playing with a toy together provides an opportunity for quality time and will also help to encourage language and motor skills.
Bottom line? Screen exposure is inevitable these days but try to keep your child’s screen time to a minimum until they reach four to five years of age. This way, you’ll have a much easier time managing it as they get older.