With the holiday shopping season here, parents are logging into their smartphones and tablets to ask me if they should buy e-books and other apps for their babies and children to help them become smarter.
Let me swipe away some of your concerns and provide some information on this topic.
Instructions for screen time
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends minimizing screen time before age two, and after that age limiting all screen time for young children to no more than an hour or two a day.
These guidelines are easier said than done. A recent study showed that three quarters of older infants and toddlers, under the age of two, were, or are, using smart devices to play games or watch videos. Parents say they give these devices to their young children to pass the time while they do their own work, to keep their children calm in public places or to help them go to sleep. Despite high use, few studies say these devices or certain apps improve a young child’s development.
Recommendations from Dr
¯ Ideally, I recommend keeping your young child away from these smart devices like phones and tablets. If you can’t, make sure to set limits on their use.
¯ Do not use these devices as time-keepers and do not substitute the use of these devices for human interactive playtime. Good face-to-face communication is no substitute for pushing and swiping things on a screen and/or downloading e-books with bells and whistles and lots of other noise.
¯ Only let your child use an app if you are going to play with them because you both use it to promote social interaction, communication and language skills, bonding and learning.
¯ A smart device is used a lot through video visiting with grandparents or other relatives.
I hope you will implement these tips and keep them in mind so that we all do a better job of helping young children’s minds develop with a smart device, or better yet – without it.
Lewis First, MD, is Chief of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine. You can also catch “First with Children” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and NBC5.