Which parent never gave a child a cell phone or tablet to avoid him crying, tantrums or even to keep their child out of a mess? This tactic may not be ideal, according to a Canadian study.
Letting a young child use electronics with screens for a long time can delay the development of language skills and sociability. The survey, which followed around 2,500 2-year-old children, is the newest in the debate over what is the safe time limit for using electronics.
Between 2011 and 2016, mothers were consulted about the time spent using screens (cell phones, TVs, video games, computers, etc.) and filled out questionnaires about their children’s skills and development when they were two, three and five years old.
At the age of two, children spent an average of 17 hours in front of screens a week. This increased to about 25 hours at age three, but dropped to about 11 hours at age five, when children started in primary school.
The findings suggest that there is an increase in the use of screens before any developmental delays are noticed. However, it is not clear whether the increased use of screens is directly responsible for the delay in development.
The longer time with screens can be linked to other factors for developmental delay, such as the way the child is educated and what the child does in the rest of his leisure time.
What is the limit?
The study does not make any recommendations on the ideal limit for the use of screens. The American Pediatric Association (AAP), however, makes some indications:
- Children under 18 months: avoid using any screen other than video calls.
- Children between 18 and 24 months: choose a quality program and watch it with your children to help them understand what they are seeing.
- Children aged 2 to 5 years: the use of screens should be limited to one hour a day and to quality programs. Parents should assist with their children.
- Children 6 years and over: impose consistent limits, ensuring that screen time does not interfere with sleep and physical activity.
The Canadian Society of Pediatrics recommends that children under 2 years old should not use screens.
In the UK, where there is no set limit, the Child Health care center says there is insufficient evidence to establish a negative effect on children. Even so, the organization recommends that families ask themselves:
- Is screen time in your home controlled?
- Does the use of screens interfere with what the family wants to do?
- Does the use of screens interfere with sleep?
- Can you control what the child eats while using the screen?
If the answers are satisfactory, then everything is likely to be going well.
What to do to reduce usage?
The American association advises families to delimit periods when the media is not used, such as meals or car trips, or places in the home where use is not permitted, such as bedrooms. With that, they should limit their kids’ screen use with screen time limit app such as FamilyTime. The app lets parents schedule a remote lock on kids’ devices along with managing their consumption. If you wish to see how does the app work, give it a try for free. You can get the trial version of this app from the app store on your phone.