The holidays may be over, but the gifted gadgets are here to stay. Parents who are concerned about recent media coverage of screen time for children 3 and younger can find help from ZERO TO THREE’s latest parent resources. The early childhood development nonprofit recently released a detailed report, Screen Sense, which provides evidence-based guidelines, including a summary of the current research on screen media use and on young children’s learning and development. Here are some helpful suggestions from ZERO TO THREE.
SCREEN-USE TIPS FOR PARENTS OF CHILDREN UNDER THREE
- Limit screen time to ensure lots of “real world” play time. Young children learn more quickly and efficiently by exploring objects and interacting with people—teachers, caregivers, and you.
- Limit your own screen time when with your children. Cut down on distractions and interruptions by using your phone’s “do not disturb” or silent setting during playtime or other one-on-one interactions with your child. Try to use phones, tablets, and laptops when your child is not with you.
- Avoid background media. Turn off the television while children play or when no one is watching, and during daily routines like mealtime.
- Take screens out of the bedroom. Screen time before bed makes it hard for children to fall, and stay, asleep. Instead, include stories, songs, and cuddles during bedtime.
- Choose top-notch children’s content. Public television stations and media outlets such as PBSkids.org or Sesame Workshop are trusted sources of high-quality programs. Websites like common sense media also provide suggestions for quality children’s media experiences. And local libraries frequently offer access to e-books, as does the International Children’s Digital Library.offsite link
- Look for engaging apps, games, and e-books. The screen experience should focus a child’s attention on a learning goal. Avoid apps with lots of “bells and whistles” that distract children from the educational content.
- Choose interactive experiences. Look for media that ask a child to participate (give feedback or take an action) and that use strong story lines.
- Help children connect what they see on a screen with real life. If a game on a tablet has a child moving a ball by dragging his finger, then roll, throw, and bounce balls in the real world. Point out and label objects that children have seen on screens, like animals or vehicles. Use the counting skills your child practiced online as you both count napkins to set the dinner table
- Use screens to help develop language skills. Share media experiences with your child to enhance learning. Ask questions. Talk about the story or characters in the game. Describe what you see on-screen.
HOW TO IMPROVE VIDEO CHATS WITH YOUNG CHILDREN
- Make them a social, interactive experience. Try rhymes, songs, dancing, finger plays, and games like peek-a-boo and hide-and-seek that young children can participate in and enjoy with their screen partner.
- Use props. Encourage the screen partner to read one of the child’s favorite books, as the child follows along with his own copy. Or, the video partner can play with a toy car while the child rolls her toy car. Puppets and stuffed animals also are great props for playing together virtually. Also, sharing a snack together is a favorite of young children.
- Be the “hands and heart” of the the person on-screen. When the screen partner “tickles” your baby’s tummy, give your child’s tummy a tickle, too. When a grandparent leans toward the screen to “kiss” your toddler, you can give him a kiss on the cheek. By taking this role, you help nurture the relationship between the child and their on-screen friend.
- Explain any technical difficulties. Tell the child why the call dropped, or why the video partner may appear to “freeze” on the screen or not be looking directly at her. Explaining these experiences in simple terms helps children better understand both the technology and the interaction. It can also help screen partners adjust factors on their side (like the angle of their webcam) to improve the video chat.
- Let children take the lead with the technology as they grow. For example, toddlers can learn how to touch the green button to call or red button to hang up.
Reprinted with permission of ZERO TO THREE. Since launching in 1977 as the National Center for Clinical Infant Programs, ZERO TO THREE, has grown to more than 160 employees working on a wide range of issues impacting infants, toddlers, young children and their families. Their mission is to ensure that all babies and toddlers have a strong start in life. ZERO TO THREE envisions a society that has the knowledge and will to support all infants and toddlers in reaching their full potential. During the first three years of life, emotionally nourishing relationships lay the foundation for lifelong health and well-being.