Recommended Screen Time for Toddlers Evolving with Technology

New ways of communicating via tech, increased educational use pushes change

TROY, Ohio (February 16, 2017) – The ever-evolving role of technology has changed the rules for its use in the lives of younger children.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently loosened its guidelines of media use for toddlers, which historically called for no screen time for children under the age of two. Now, the Academy says children 18 to 24 months of age can engage in screens in a limited capacity. Still, one local pediatrician says parents should be extremely cautious.

“It used to be that television by itself was the only form of media we had, but we’ve seen in the past 10 years a variety of electronic devices – such as video games, cell phones, tablets and readers – fighting for the attention of our families and especially our children,” said Paul Weber, MD, a pediatrician with The Pediatric Group in Troy.

Screen time that used to come strictly from a television securely planted in a living room has become much more mobile and accessible through the advent of smartphones and tablets. In some cases, this convenience has turned screens into an instant pacifier for young children – a role highly discouraged by organizations such as the AAP and professionals like Dr. Weber.

"Now that we can hold electronic devices in our hands, the availability for use makes them almost a constant companion for many of our children,” said Dr. Weber.

The increased use of screens to video chat with loved ones is one of the main reasons the AAP loosened its rules. It still encourages parents to be extremely careful and vigilant when allowing a toddler to use a device and discourages parents from allowing a child to use a screen in isolation.

Dr. Weber said parents should keep the following points in mind:

  • Two-way communication – Children 18 months to two years of age should engage in technology only for the use of communicating with a loved-one on applications such as FaceTime or Skype. Do not use screens as a means for entertainment for children under two years old.
  • Educational tool – Once children turn two years of age, screens can be introduced as long as they have an educational component and are closely monitored by parents. Dr. Weber says it is important to remember that while technology can play a part in educating children, hands-on learning is still more effective.
  • Establish a gatekeeper – Children should not have constant, open-ended access to any type of technology or device. A parent or guardian should be in charge of how engaged a child is with technology and establish rules around its use. 
  • Create a foundation – The toddler years are a good time to help a child understand expectations that can serve as a strong foundation into their childhood. Parents should re-evaluate their technology plans each year. Once a child hits five years of age the plan may begin to look different including the use of a personalized media plan.
  • Look beyond today – Resist the temptation to veer from your established rules. Raising a toddler can be exhausting and allowing extra use of a device to pacify a child or to gain temporary peace in the home will only push the boundaries that were established to keep a child safe. 

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