Many parents are under the belief that tablets are essential for a child’s development, but can you go too far? It’s a common question facing today’s parent: How much time should your kids be allowed on tablet devices. This question is being asked not just by parents but psychologists, health organizations, and even governments. Kids are spending more time on tablets and at younger ages than ever before. Mainly because tablets are getting cheaper to buy all the time and it’s almost expected to have one for them.
Too much time on their tablets can make it hard for your kid to sleep at night. It can raise your kid’s risk of attention problems and of gaining too much weight because sitting and watching a screen is a time spent not being physically active. Tablets are stealing kids’ play since they aren’t playing, shouting, and spending time with other kids, so they are effectively isolated.
However, let’s bear in mind the incredible amount of fun they give kids, the way they have expanded children’s skills with using a tablet and the vast access to interests and facts available on online. Also, tablets can help kids with their schoolwork. We can all agree with one thing – what’s more important is the quality of what kids are watching on their tablets. But surfing the internet, spending too much time on social media, or watching videos on YouTube is considered unhealthy screen time. Therefore, experts agree we should limit how long our kids spend using tablets.
In this article, we’ll explore how much time is healthy for your kids to spend on their tablets and advise you on how to go about detaching them off their tablet addiction. Stay where you are, so you can read a collection of experts’ guidelines for managing a kid’s tablet time, and their warnings and advice on the dangers of recreational tablet time, especially before bedtime.
Birth to 18 months – Avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting
The evidence presents limited benefits for children younger than 2-years-old despite many parents believe there are advantages to their babies and toddlers playing educational games on a tablet.
18-24 months – Limited use
First, do not feel pressured to introduce your child to technology. You should choose high-quality programming and use media together with your kid.
2-5 years – Limit use to one hour per day
Children, this age can be introduced to tablets. But only for one hour a day. The type of media they are exposed should be only high-quality programs and PBS shows. Also, interact with your child about the program to improve cognitive outcomes. Kids at this age can’t decipher between real-world people and fictional cartoons, so experts support toddlers using face-to-face interactive media, like Skype or Facetime.
6 years of age and older— Limit tablet time to 2 hours per day
Parents are in charge of setting limits on how much time kids should spend on their tablet. Kids should prioritize productive time over entertainment time. Though there are no specific recommendations, older children should limit tablet time to two hours per day or less. If they need to use computers for schoolwork parents should allow them to use tablets as much as necessary. Encourage kids to engage in other activities like reading, exploring new things and social interaction with other kids. Don’t forget to promote at least one hour of physical activity per day.
It is advisable to have “tablet free” zones, for any age, like at meal times and in a bedroom. You should make mealtime an opportunity to interact with one another since it is important for kids’ development. And kids, as well as parents, can store tablets to avoid temptations. This will encourage kids to talk more and not be absorbed in a tablet all the time. Also, you shouldn’t allow tablet use one hour before bedtime. Exposure to blue light from screens affects melatonin levels and can delay and disrupt sleep.
However, here are the principles we recommend to make it easier the decision about how much time your kids should spend on their tablets:
- Older kids get more. Like we mentioned before, they need to use the Internet for research for school assignments.
- Kids who spend time in physical hobbies or team sports should get more. This is because they can have more time on a tablet and still can achieve some balance in their activities.
- Kids who are reluctant to play outside or who are generally inactive, get less. This is to encourage them to become more physically active.
- If your kids are showing signs of addiction, they get none. These children are vulnerable and need to re-establish their normal childhood activities before they can have a gradual re-introduction to their tablets.
- All kids under the age of 15 need clear guidelines of the times when they are allowed their tablets. They also need a time of day entirely tablet-free.
How to limit your kid’s screen time
First, it’s important to set a good example with your own using of the tablet. Kids will model their behavior on you, so make sure you have healthy digital media habits. Talk to them about the amount of time they spend online and what they are doing while using the Internet. Agree with them on an appropriate amount of time they can use their tablet. Believe us, these limits could be healthy for adult members of the family too. Technology can be helpful, as well. BT’s Parental Controls allow you set times when your kids can’t get online, so they focus only on doing their homework. The Forest app, for example, enables kids to grow a beautiful forest in return for keeping their tablet use within the set limit.
Finally, have ongoing communication as a family about online safety. For their own safety, parents should monitor kids’ tablet use by testing apps prior to enabling use and engaging with their kids on social media. Parents should talk with their kids about privacy and the dangers of the Internet like cyberbullying and Internet predators.
So, what say you? How much time should kids be allowed on tablet devices? Do you think the time frames mentioned above are good?
Brenda is a single mom of two. Now that her kids have gotten a little older she shares her experiences with kids and technology on her blog best-tablet-for-kids.com. As a part-time journalist and blog-writer, she knows tech is coming into our lives and especially into the lives of our children, so we best stay on top of it however we can and provide them with the tools for the future.
We do not limit much because we homeschool and utilize the tablet as part of the education, but tablets are not allowed in moving vehicles, at meal times or other special events and “gaming” or video watching is limited.