I have been a Speech Pathologist for over 18 years; and the question I have NEEDED to ask parents more than ever, is “How much screen time does your child have a day?”. Screen time includes iPad, TV, phone, computer, portable and car TV/ DVD players, handheld screen games.
Why do I need to ask that question?
Simply because screen time is so easily accessible these days; and over the years, logically, there has been an increase in children’s exposure and dose of daily screen time.
Among other factors; what can contribute to a language delay, and social skill difficulties is excessive screen time; as it takes away from human interaction time, and the opportunity to practice listening and using language.
Australia’s trusted parenting website raisingchildren.net.au answers how much screen time is recommended; “Not much” is the simple answer. Children under two should steer clear of the screen altogether. Children aged 2-5 years should have no more than an hour a day. And children aged 5-18 years should have no more than two hours.
Before you start calculating the time your child spends in front a screen and perhaps feeling guilty, like a “bad” parent or defensive – just chill out for a second. Understand that my intention here is to raise awareness and mindfulness of your child’s (and perhaps your) screen time habits and to say in particular to those parents who may be a little concerned about their child’s communication and social skill development; that there may need to be a little re-jigging done to the daily screen time menu. You might consider screen time as a reward rather than routine.
Every now and again, someone will say to me; “I watched TV as a kid, and I turned out okay!” Sure – but let me state the obvious; we are looking at perhaps 20- 25 years ago, in many cases; when the only screens available to look at were TVs, and the kids TV shows were on during a small window of the morning and afternoon. So, please do not take offence. Exercise common sense.
There is also the subgroup of parents who will often talk about their child’s iPad and how much their child has learnt from it. I agree; there are some awesome apps; that offer great opportunities for learning different things. The same must be said about the high quality of some children’s TV shows. To enhance even further the world of apps and TV; consider occasionally sitting alongside your child providing feedback, conversation; and/ or reinforcing what they are learning within daily living routines and activities.
Screens cannot be the replacement of real human to human interactions. Moderation is the key, to open the door to the learning and experiences that is real life!