Managing a parent’s screen use
- Review your screen use habits. Be a screen use role model, and set screen-free periods with your family, as well as interactive family co-viewing screen time.
- Limit your own screen time especially when interacting with your child, and avoid watching or playing violent or other inappropriate content while children are present.
Managing screen use in the home
- Eliminate unnecessary background screen time. Turn off the TV to reduce sensory overload and distractions to your child’s attention.
- Avoid screen use during mealtimes.
- Keep screen devices out of the bedroom. Apart from reducing screen use, this also allows you to monitor what content your child is being exposed to.
Managing a child’s screen use
- Avoid any screen use at all in children younger than 18 months. For older children, agree within your family and other caregivers, such as grandparents or nannies, what your child’s maximum daily screen time should be (e.g., 1 – 2 hours), and stick to it.
- Explain to your child about your screen time limit, and what consequences there would be if the limit is exceeded (e.g., no screen use at all the following day).
- Discourage repetitive viewings of the same show. Children can easily repeat a programme by themselves. Turn the screen off after one episode of a children’s programme.
- Avoid using screen devices as the only way to calm your child. Although there are intermittent times (e.g., medical procedures, airplane flights) when they may be useful as a soothing strategy, using screen devices to calm could lead to problems with your child developing emotional regulation.
- Stop all screen use one hour before bedtime. This allows your child’s sleep hormone (melatonin) to rise naturally. It also gives you time to do a bedtime routine with your child to promote parent-child bonding and interaction during bedtime stories or lullabies.
- Protect screen devices with password/passcodes to prevent unauthorised use by the child beyond the allotted time limit.
Screen-free ways to engage with your child
- The time period spent on a screen device is generally a solitary and passive one. Young children should be learning to interact socially, communicate with others, practise physical exercise, develop imaginative play, think creatively, and engage win multi-sensory exploration.
- For children under two years, the importance of caregivers sitting down to play interactively with the child cannot be overstated. Interactive play promotes language and communication skills, as well as social and cognitive development. Play make-believe, peekaboo, hide-and-seek, and get your child to imitate you doing nursery rhyme actions and songs.
- For older children, offer fun alternatives, such as reading and storytelling, role-playing or dressing up, building blocks or jigsaw puzzles, art and craft, family board games, or outdoor play, hide-and-seek, or sports such as ball games or swimming.
- ‘Screen time’ refers to time spent on ‘screen devices’ such as television screens, mobile and smart devices, computers, desktops, laptops, video and handheld game consoles.
- ‘Background screen time’ refers to time being exposed to electronic devices with screens. This includes the child sharing a physical space with a screen device that is being used, while the child is engaged in a non-screen activity, such as sleeping.
- ‘Screen use’ refers to overall screen use – which includes factors such as duration of time spent, but also age of onset, circumstance (e.g., mealtime/bedtime), and quality (e.g., appropriateness of content) of screen exposure.