Connecting and Cutting Back on “Screens”

From cell phones and tablets to laptops and TVs, technology connects us in so many ways. But screens are complex – while they offer new and powerful ways to communicate and learn, their use has also been linked to physical, emotional and developmental issues in children.

Any parent who has occasionally used a tablet to placate a whiny three-year-old or has dealt with a tantrum when taking a cellphone away from a child knows that screens can pose parenting challenges. Anyone who has found themselves immersed in their own phone when they should be, say, playing with a child knows they are a distraction that can be destructive. While smartphones and other screens are here to stay, managing how we use them is vitally important – so important that a growing number of Silicon Valley parents actually oppose their own children using screens.

Raising awareness of where, when and how your family uses electronic devices can help you make smarter choices. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under two should not use screens and children ages 2 to 5 should spend no more than one hour a day looking at electronic media. Setting limits on time, choosing high-quality/educational content and supervising your child’s screen time can also help.

Learning how your child’s daycare, preschool or kindergarten uses technology is key. How much time is your child spending in front of a screen? Is this time monitored? If so, how? What are the learning goals in using technology? How does this fit into the school’s curriculum?

Finally, exploring your own engagement with screens can help increase awareness and understanding of the impact it may have on your life. Think about what you get out of it (and what you don’t) and evaluate your options for change.

In honor of Screen-Free Week (April 29 – May 5), First 5 LA will be offering tools for families to consider the impact of screens on their lives and ways to take breaks from technology.

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