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Screen Time Guidelines for School-Age Children: Balancing Fun and Learning

Phones, TVs, tablets, and computers all have screens. We use them to talk to friends and family, shop, find out what’s going on in the world, and sometimes even look at the menu at a restaurant. Many kids in school, starting as early as Kindergarten, also use them.

We hear exciting things about how tech-savvy the next generation will be and how far technology could come in their lives. But we hear just as much about how too much time in front of a screen can be bad for young minds. Many parents are left thinking, “How much screen time is too much for our kids?”

The simple answer is that the key is to find a good mix. Studies show that screen time has good and bad effects, closely linked to how much media is used versus how little. In this post, we will go over general recommendations by age and how kids and parents can find a good balance between using media and unplugging even when kids attend childcare in Silver Spring, MD.

Screentime Recommendations

Most parents have probably turned to letting their children watch something while they cook dinner, take an important phone call, or, honestly, just take a mental health break. Doing that once in a while isn’t bad, and contrary to what many people think, it doesn’t make you a bad parent. The goal is to learn how much time your child should spend in front of a screen based on age and find a good balance for your family.

Children Under 2

Most experts say that kids under two shouldn’t use screens unless it’s for a video call with family or friends. Why? There isn’t much proof that cognitive or social benefits happen at this age, and babies aren’t in a place where they can learn from digital media and apply what they’ve learned to the real world.

Instead, they say that it’s important for guardians to spend a lot of time talking, singing, playing, and reading with them. These exchanges are the primary way babies learn, and science has shown that they help babies develop cognitive skills (their brains grow the fastest between the ages of 0 and 3) and grow closer to their parents and caregivers.

Children 2 to 5

Experts say that kids between 2 and 5 should not spend more than an hour a day in front of a computer. Some media use at this age can be good for learning, but a parent needs to be there with them and take part.

Stay away from fast-paced or distracting media because kids don’t understand it. Also, stay away from media that is harmful, even if it seems like a small fight. They also warn against using media as the main way to calm down a child who is upset.

Children Over 5

Science shows that by age 5, children are ready to learn from digital media tools and get something out of them. In small amounts, these can be helpful in many ways, especially when a helper joins in.

Experts don’t recommend a specific amount of computer time for kids in that age range because every child and family is different. Instead, they suggest that parents set consistent limits each day and balance computer time with other important things for kids’ health, like exercise, sleep, play, reading time, and quality social interactions with other people in person.

girl watching her tablet

Best Tips for Balance

How do you find a balance so that your children are participating in a range of activities that don’t all include screens? Here are some suggestions from the caregivers at daycare in Silver Spring, MD, to aid parents and other household caregivers in controlling screen usage, scheduling more time for good “unplugged” activities, and creating healthy routines at home.

Read as a Family

Not every activity needs to be done outside. Have family reading time, go to the library, or give your kids a list of books to read during the summer to encourage them to read more. The advantages of reading include improved communication abilities, reading comprehension, logical thinking, and more, in addition to opening the door to new worlds. When feasible, encourage your youngster to read from a printed book or comic rather than a digital one.

mother reading a book to her 2 boys

Be the Example

Parents must abide by the limitations on screen time at home. Is it one of your guiding principles that no screens be used during meals or family gatherings? That implies that neither Mom nor Dad should be using their phone.

And try to put yourself in their position. Where you focus your attention as a parent frequently indicates your current priority. It can be detrimental to children’s mental health and family connections if they witness their parents spending more time on their phones or other media than with them.

Research demonstrates that kids are more prone to act out for attention when parents are more preoccupied with their own devices. Parents should set an example for their children to encourage them to engage more in the real world.

Get Involved in Play

Organized games are great for kids to get in shape and work as a team. Check your city’s parks and leisure sign-up dates if your kids want to join beginner teams. In the same way, playing outside with friends gives kids more opportunities to make new friends or get closer to the ones they already have. This free time with other kids also helps them learn social skills like kindness.

little girl playing on her tablet

Final Thoughts

Putting limits on electronics doesn’t mean taking away all electronics. But know that a child’s brain does switch to passive mode when they are in front of a screen. Because of this, it’s important to plan screen time smartly. Try to save creative activities for the morning or when they are attending childcare in Silver Spring, MD, as this is when their thoughts are sharp.

When it comes to electronics, the best time is in the afternoon or even after they come home from daycare in Silver Spring, MD. This is when the sun is at its highest point, and kids are probably already too tired to play. Also, try to ensure that your child’s computer time is spread out over short periods. Set a goal of 30 minutes and a limit of one hour at most. Remember to turn off or put away all gadgets at least two hours before bedtime.

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