Screen time for Kids

What's Covered

Most of my childhood was spent outside of the house, playing with my friends. I was seldom home because I love being outdoors, running, wandering, and playing until night. Now, things have drastically changed. You won’t find a lot of kids playing outside. Instead, you will find them at home, either with their laptop, cellphone, or their eyes are glued on the T.V. If our version of playtime is playing outdoors, nowadays, kid’s version of playtime is their “screen time”. You can always see them with their gadgets. Either they are busy watching YouTube on their phone, or their eyes are on the T.V watching Netflix.

What is screen time and how does its affect  kids

Screen time is the amount of time spent using a device with a screen. Digital devices such as television, computers, smartphones, tablet computers, and video game console[1] is a major contributor to kids’ screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children below 2 years of age should be discouraged from having screen time and a limitation of 1-2 hours per day for children 2 years and above.[2] Despite these recommendations, most kids are getting too much screen time.

Screen time and your Kids development

Most parents are into digital parenting. I am no exception when it comes to this. I use digital screen time as her nanny while I work for the day. As per the study, there is not enough data to correlate screen time and child development for kids under 3.[3]. I was somehow confident with this thought till I start to notice that my child’s behavior is changing over time. I did some research and here’s what some of those research says:

  1.  Delayed speech development

Some studies correlate speech delays with too much screen time. Though there is really no way to tell, but screen time can be a factor in speech development. My neighbor’s child is already 3 years old but he still cannot form a word. Instead of using words, he uses gestures to communicate what he wants to his mother.

I find this somehow true especially if the kid is left alone with a gadget. Yes there videos that are supposed to teach your child to vocabulary, and encourage them to speak, however they are still videos. The exchange of communication and interaction is missing in this area.  Remember children usually learn to talk and communicate through interactions with people. T.V’s and other digital screens might not be able to provide this kind of interaction to your kid.

  • Behavior Problems

I personally experience this with my child. Most of the time is left alone with a cellphone; she can change the programs she watches. Kids are way too smart with their gadgets these days. My kid and I will always get into a fight every time I take her eyes off the screen. Other moms also share the same experience with their kids.

Most of you might agree with me that too much screen time results in kids having tantrums, whining, and exhibiting bad behavior. They usually acquire this behavior from the programs they have watched on youtube. Remember that kids 3 years and under might not be able to identify good and bad behavior. If they watched it and they think it is funny, they will copy it. I got worried and bothered when my daughter started pulling my hair, putting in an angry face, and throwing things all of a sudden. Then I came to know that she got all of this behavior to certain kids shows that she often watches on youtube. I have already blocked the show but my action is too late since my daughter has acquired that behavior.

  • Sleep problems

Letting your child get some screen time before bed is harmful to your kid’s brain development. Screens like T.V,s laptops and cellphone emits blue light that can give a signal to your kid’s brain that it is still daytime.[4] Because of this, the body will find it difficult to know that it is already nighttime and it is time to sleep. This may lead to insomnia. We all know that kids need 10-13 hours’ sleep at night.  And giving those gadgets to make them sleep will delay their sleepiness.

Is screen time really bad for children?

Most of the research I read talks about the negative effects of digital screens on children. Though there is really no definite research to prove the claim, I believe that screen time is one of the factors affecting a child’s development.

Generally, screen time if use properly is not bad for children. There are different shows being offered on the internet that is specific for learning, communication, fun, and play which your kids can definitely enjoy. These shows are great tools and can be used as teaching guides for your kids. Aside from this, you can use screen time to bond with your kids. It becomes bad if proper guidance is not set with the kids. [5] As parents, we have to make sure that before we introduce screen time to our children, we are also prepared to guide them, monitor what they are watching from time to time, and educate them on the positives and negatives of screen time. By doing this, screen time can be used as an effective parenting tool.

10 Tips on how to use screen time effectively

Anything too much is bad. Well, that’s what most of the research and life experiences have proven. As for screen time, I believe that proper guidance and education of it not just with kids but especially for parents is necessary so we can maximize the positive benefits of digital screens in the family. Here are some tips that can come in handy.

1.      Limit your kid’s screen time and make them follow it

Screen time exposure differs per age. Recommended screen time for kids 3 years and under is 1 hour per day. As a mother of a 2-year-old kid, I am guilty of not having this followed. I am one of those parents who usually give in to kids when they start to cry. But I feel guilty afterward.

If you set a 1 hour screen time limit with your kid, you must follow it as a parent. Talk to your kid as to why there is a limit in screen time. Sometimes, 3-year-olds and under might not understand it so as a parent, you have to take the lead. Yes, they might throw a tantrum, cry, yell but you have to make sure that you are disciplined enough to be able to discipline and reinforce the screen time limitation to your kid.

2.      Set an Example

This might be one of the toughest to do because as a parent, we use screen time for almost everything. From managing our work down to checking some cool stuff to take away the stress. Kids will not only look for a role model but will also look for someone to point fingers to if they are being restricted into doing something. So as a parent, you have to make sure that you also follow the limitation set. I am not saying 1 hour screen time, because that will be impossible especially if you are using it for work.

What I am saying is, we are parents have to also limit our screen time when we are just browsing and checking stuff on the net. What I do as a parent is during work hours, I let my kid play with her toys, do colors, and make her busy without screen time. If she really wants one, then probably I give her 30 mins. Then once my work is done, I let her complete the rest of her screen time (or do her screen time) while I am doing mine. If she has an hour, I will also need to make sure that my screen time leisure is only for an hour then once done, I put down my phone, observe her for a little while to see if she will do the same. If not call her attention and tell her screen time for the day is over.

3.      Introduce other activities

Okay, playing outdoors nowadays is not an enticing option because of the pandemic and all but there are other things that you kids will enjoy aside from technology. It’s far easier to introduce other activities to kids 3 years old and under. But remember, aside from having fun, these activities should also encourage learning and development for your kid. Here are some activities that I highly recommend as a parent.

  1. Jumbo Paint Markers and Coloring Books Bundle

These colorings books are not just for fun. This is also great for motor skills development for kids 3 and below. Your kids can work on the development and coordination of hand to eye movement, color recognition, strength development, and improving memory. It is also a great way of discovering the inner artist in your child.

What is more appealing is that it is BPA free so you can be so sure that there are no harmful industrial ingredients on it. It is also washable no need to worry about wall and floor stains. This is not only limited to kids’ enjoyment but for parents as well. Going to a bingo party and can’t find a pen or a marker for your bingo cards? These jumbo dot markers can be a lifesaver!

Glokers Jumbo Dot Paint Markers
A perfect activity for motor skills development to children under 3 years of age

As a parent, I am also concerned about the value of money. I don’t usually spend that much when it comes to toys because 1, they might not like it, 2 they will outgrow it, and 3; it is just one-time use. But this reusable sticker pad is worth your money.

Apart from the fact that your kid can stick it, remove it and stick it again, each book promotes leanings. Your child will learn about different animals and their homes, there are also for sciences, trucks, and different types of stickers that you can choose from. It also promotes motor skills development and a love for art. So as a parent this is worth every penny spent.

Melissa & Doug Reusable Sticker Pads
A great way to start an adventure with your kids through stickers
  • VTech Touch and Teach Word Book

A bit pricey but definitely worth it. My kid loves it. She is 2 and this is her go-to toy and book every day. The book features 12 detailed and touch-sensitive pages that help teach kids different words.  Categories like your home, food, clothes, toys, the park, and the zoo are available in the book.  It has different modes to play so your kids won’t get bored with it. What I love about the book is the “Find It” mode. It will ask your kid to find something and if they press the right answer, the book will say “Wow Great Job”

Not only this book veers away your kid’s attention to digital screens, but this book is also a great tool for learning and boosting your child’s confidence.

VTech Touch & Teach Word Book
A perfect way to introduce fun in learning to your child
  • ABC Sound book for Children. English Letters & Words learning toys for 3-year-old girls and boys, Fun, Educational colors and animals with numbers shapes, colors and animals. Interactive books for Toddlers.

As a parent, I would like to invest in things that my kid can use and enjoy for a long time. I find this book/toy totally worth it. This book is great for kids who are starting to discover words, letters, and numbers. It has different features that are great for your child’s brain development. Plus this is so portable so your kids can bring it anywhere.

My kid is a handful when we travel. I love the fact that we can bring this book and she can play and use this book when traveling. She is two but with this kind of book, she is able to differentiate different animals, copy how they sound, she can classify different fruits and musical instruments too.

ABC Sound book for Children
a perfect go-to book if you want to lessen screen time of your kid

4.      Play with Your Kids

Get down on the floor pick up that toy truck, the doll, tea house. Play pretend games with your kids. Being too busy with career and other adult problems is a major contributor to why kids are addicted to digital screens these days. Spending time with your child means a lot to them. They might not understand how precious your time is but they do feel the love and sincerity you have with them. So always have time to play with your kids.  15 years down the line, you will be grateful that you have built and collected these precious memories with them.

5.      Co watch with your kids

This is important especially for kids 3 and under. As a parent, you should have the time to watch what your kid is watching. This is to ensure that your kid is watching the right content and program suitable for their age. If you haven’t done it yet, don’t worry it is not too late. I just recently did this with my kid. And have deleted and restricted a lot of shows.

With co-watching, I found out that I am not a fan of youtube for my kid and personally will not recommend it to friends. Don’t get me wrong, I like youtube. It’s just that I find some content not suitable for my kid and regardless if I restricted or blocked the show; my kid is too smart to always find it on youtube.

6.      No TV in the bedrooms

I find this helpful not just for my kid but for myself as well. We keep a TV in the living room and the entertainment room. This is a good discipline not only for the kids but for the whole family as well. The bedroom should be conducive for sleeping and not for anything else. There should be no distractions for sleep and relaxation in the bedroom.

7.      Use screen time as a reward or a punishment

As parents, we are always looking for ways on how to reward good behavior and punish/manage the not-so-good ones with our kids. We can use screen time as a reward/punishment tool.  If the kid is showing bad behavior and it cannot be stopped by mere warnings, as a parent, you can take the screen time privilege they have for the day. This will send a message to your kid that screen time given to them is a privilege and not a necessity.

If you have taken their screen time as a punishment, you must also use the same tool when giving a reward. What I do is I give a 15 minute to 30 minutes additional screen time to my kid as a reward for her good behavior. Since she is just turning 3, I usually use the additional screen time to connect with the other members of the family through face time or Skype. Not only I have allowed my kid to have additional screen time, but the reward was also used for her to see other family members through video calling. 

8.      Put the devices away

Kids can be easily tempted and they have their own cunning ways on how to make things happen. During screen-free hours, put all devices away and put them in a place where they will not be tempted to go and get the device.

9.      Have a phone-free zone in the home

Create a spot in your home where digital screens are not allowed. A great way to start is in the dining room.  Create a rule in the house that mealtime means no digital screens are allowed. And do not just restrict meal times like lunch or dinner. Make it a point that all mealtimes are digital screen-free zone.

I was used to having a TV in the dining room and meal times mean dinner with the family and playing something on the TV at the same time. But I learned not to do that with my kid now. Our TV can still be seen in the dining room but I make it a point that it is turned off during meal times. My kid now is more focused on her meal and at 2, she can eat on her own, and already knows how to use a spoon and fork.

10. Go outside and play

The pandemic brought fear to everyone and as much as possible we want our kids to stay indoors. But it doesn’t hurt to go out from time to time and play with the neighbor’s kid as well. Safety will always be our priority. Your kid can still go out and play with other kids that you know. It might be your closest neighbor’s kid, your sibling’s kid, you niece/nephew. So long as you know their parents and you know their background, it doesn’t hurt that you let your kid go out and play with them.

Apart from the joy that outdoor playing gives, letting your child play with other kids will develop their social skills. They will know how to interact with other kids. And also they at an early age understand the value of friendship through playmates.

These tips might be common and as parents, we already knew this, but following it and sticking to the rules we had set with our children is a major struggle.

As a new parent and a working mom, I find these helpful but struggle in terms of implementation. I usually am the first to give in to my child’s whims and tantrums for I feel guilty that most of my time is spent on work. So if you and I have the same dilemma, I find these books really helpful for me. It gave me a deeper understanding as to what, why, and how important it is to have healthy screen time not only with the kids but also with parents like me.

  1. The Art of Screen time: Digital Parenting without Fear

I love this book because this talks about the real-life challenges of parents dealing with technology and using technology as a tool for parenting. While most books talk about the negative side of screen time, this book discusses screen time in a positive approach. Some topics are spot on and engaging to the readers. New parents or parents who want to learn how to balance screen time to their will benefit from this book.

The Art of Screen Time: Digital Parenting without Fear
a perfect book to read for parents who would like to get more understanding on what digital parenting is and how this can be applied with their kids
  • The New Childhood: Raising Kids to Thrive in a Connected World

A thought-provoking, timely, and a must-read book for all parents who are raising digitally-driven kids. The author’s approach will trigger different emotions in parents who will read this book. This book made me realize the big difference between parenting now versus parenting techniques 5 years back.  This book made me realize that technology is not my enemy. Instead of being anxious, I have to adapt to it so I can properly guide my child on how to use screen time and technology effectively.

The New Childhood: Raising Kids to Thrive in a Connected World
a thought-provoking must-read book for parents who has challenges in accepting the digital world as the new childhood

Final Thoughts

Parenting is tough, especially in this digitally driven world. I can say that yes it is scary and challenging but at the same time exciting. It can stir a lot of emotions in us as parents and this might cloud our judgment on what is good and not for our kids. We always have this fear of the unknown.

Remember, technology and digital screens are not our enemies. To put it simply, our enemy is ourselves. How we introduce technology to our kids and guide them on how to properly use it will have a great impact on how our kids use digital screens growing up. It is okay to fear but dear, learn how to chill.

Whether you are a parent or not, carving out time to turn off your devices, to disconnect from the wired world and engage with the real people who are all around you, is one of the best gifts you can give yourself and the people you love.” – Alan Brown

[1] Lauricella, Alexis R., Ellen Wartella, and Victoria J. Rideout. “Young children’s screen time: The complex role of parent and child factors.” Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 36 (2015): 11-17.

[2] Blum-Ross, Alicia, and Sonia Livingstone. “Families and screen time: Current advice and emerging research.” (2016).

[3] Duch, Helena, et al. “Screen time use in children under 3 years old: a systematic review of correlates.” International journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity 10.1 (2013): 1-10.

[4] Screen-time-insomnia –Dr. Anjalie Gallion-

[5] Birken, Catherine S., et al. “Parental factors associated with screen time in pre-school children in primary care practice: a TARGet Kids! study.” Public health nutrition 14.12 (2011): 2134-2138.

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Vivian Perry

Vivian Perry

Mother of 3 kids. Enjoy reading parenting books and studied child care degree. Vivian loves to learn and write about parenting tips and help her kids to grow positively with grit mindset.