It's no secret that iPads and other touch-screen tablets are beating out Legos, dolls and action figures when it comes to kids' top toys. And at this point, it's safe to say most parents know they need to be more mindful of their children's screen time. But researchers say moderation is key.
“While electronic devices and gadgets can be educational and often provide parents time to tackle their to-do lists, we’re learning that too much screen time can impact brain and language development in children,” said Rahil Briggs, director of the Healthy Steps program at The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in New York. “Technology and games may play important roles in our lives, but we can’t forget the value of personal interaction and healthy lifestyles.”
While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children younger than two, and no more than two hours per day for children older than two, some parents, like me, enjoy using the age-appropriate apps and educational games with their kids from time to time.
To help you be mindful of your child's screen time, Briggs, who is a child psychologist specializing in early development, shares some tablet tips for parents:
* Strike a balance. Parents should encourage kids to switch between screen time and traditional activities such as puzzles and coloring books, which help to develop fine motor and problem solving skills, said Briggs.
* Get involved. Parental interaction is key, said Briggs. "Kids who spend more time watching television or playing with a tablet device tend to receive less attention from their parents, and as a result, the child's language development is negatively impacted -- they learn fewer words by certain milestones," she said. Aim to make time each day to talk, read and play with your child.
* Encourage group play. Children should be encouraged to interact with peers rather than spend the majority of time engrossed in a solo activity, according to Briggs.
* Plan a mix of activities. "Overstimulation from TV, iPads and computer games can lead to the brain becoming accustomed to a high level of stimulus, making traditional activities, like book reading, boring," said Briggs. "Parents should encourage kids to spend time doing other activities as well. Consider having a trade-off: 30-minutes of TV for 30 minutes of outdoor play, or some such."