So, while we wish to reap the benefits of screen time, how we can limit the screen time exposure to optimum levels? So, we are going to approach this problem with a 4-pronged approach with the 4 Ms.
1. Minimize 2. Mitigate 3. Mindful use 4. Model
1. Minimize screen time:
Minimizing screen time leaves more time for face to-face interactions, which is how young children learn best. • Follow the recommendations ➢ Screen time for children younger than 2 years is not recommended. So absolutely no screen time up to 2 years of age. By contrast, they learn intensely through face-to-face interaction with parents and caregivers. Early learning is easier, more enriching and developmentally more efficient when experienced live, interactively, in real time and space, and with real people. Increase cognitive stimulation and parent child interaction by doing activities using toys, colors, art, games, books etc. ➢ For children 2 to 5 years, limit routine or regular screen time to less than 1 hour per day. • Maintain daily ‘screen-free’ times ➢ Decide screen-free times for the family like- family meals ➢ Decide screen- free rooms for the family like- bedroom. ➢ Avoid screens for at least 1 hour before bedtime, as the light exposure from the screen has the potential to suppress melatonin, thus affecting the sleep.
2. Mitigate (reduce) the risks associated with screen time:
• Co-viewing ➢ Watch with children. Adults can connect what is being viewed with real life, and build language and cognitive skills, such as attention, memory and thinking. ➢ Shared screen time avoids the disadvantages of solitary viewing. When children watch educational, age-appropriate content with an engaged adult, screen time can be a positive learning experience, thus reducing the risk associated with screen time. ➢ While co-viewing, be present and engaged when screens are used. Be aware of content and prioritize educational, age-appropriate and interactive programming. • Avoid Sedentary screen time ➢ Ensure that sedentary screen time is not a routine part of child care for children younger than 5 years. Combine touch screen use with creative or active play.
3. Mindful use of screen time:
Children younger than 5 years learn best from live, immersive interactions with family members and caregivers. Given the choice, they will nearly always opt for talking, playing or being read to over screen time in any form. Hence, as parents and caregivers, we need to use screens mindfully. • Actively enhance—and limit—media encounters by choosing them together and purposefully (‘let’s watch or play this content, at this time, for this reason’). • Limit screen use in public places(in a party etc.), while traveling (in a car, bus etc.) and during family routines, such as at meals. Family times are prime opportunities for social learning. • Select content from quality, non-commercial sources, to minimize exposure to advertising. Pay attention to messages about gender, body image, violence, diversity and social issues when choosing content. • Help children recognize and question advertising messages, stereotyping and other problematic content. • Develop Family Media plan: ➢ Developing a family ‘media action plan’ can help protect and reinforce quality family time. ➢ Conduct a self-assessment of current screen habits and develop a family media plan for when, how and where screens may (and may not) be used. Like no background TV, no screen time during meals, in bedrooms, and 1 hour prior to sleep. ➢ Setting meaningful limits when children are young and sharing them as a family is far easier than cutting back screen time when children are older. ➢ For children—and parents—off-screen time is critical for developing essential life skills such as self-regulation, creativity and learning through physical and imaginative play. • Remember: too much screen time means lost opportunities for teaching and learning. • Be reassured that there is no evidence to support introducing technology at an early age. Your child is not missing out anything by being exposed to technology later.
Adults should model healthy screen use: Children younger than 5 years require active play and quality family time to develop essential life skills, such as language, self-regulation and creative thinking. Regardless of age, children should not have to compete with screens for parental attention. As parents, • Choose healthy alternatives, such as reading, outdoor play and creative, hands-on activities to spend time with your child. • Turn off their devices at home during family time. • Turn off screens when not in use and avoid background TV. Thus, as we can see, the screen time has its effects on overall development of our children, and whether this is a positive effect or a negative one depends on how we use it!! So, let’s use the 4 Ms- Minimize screen time, Mitigate the risks of screen time, Mindful use of screen time and Model good screen use behaviors to tame this demon of ‘screen time’ and make it one of the boons of this digital world!!
Here is the link to the Author’s Podcast on the same topic.
Here is the link to the Original Blog.