How to Protect Your Toddler From Excessive Screen Time

How to Protect Your Toddler From Excessive Screen Time

The way mobile devices have entrenched themselves in modern society is nothing short of phenomenal. They’re here to stay and have made themselves relevant in practically every aspect of life. Those who resist are a rare breed. Mobile device users span the spectra of occupations, persuasions, nationalities, and, unfortunately, ages.

That’s right; it’s very common these days to see babies watching videos from their parents’ smartphones or tablets. A little older and they’d be tapping and swiping with the best of them.

As they toddle and learn to talk, they acquire new skills and hit growth milestones with the assistance of various apps accessed through devices purchased expressly for their use.

What Dangers Were Detected?

The technology is still pretty fresh. When mobile devices were first introduced, people got so excited about them that they uninhibitedly jumped the bandwagon without realizing what the potential hazards were. As with new drugs, the side effects are only now revealing themselves, and the members of this generation are the unwitting guinea pigs.

The negative effects may impact everybody, but not as unfortunately as they might younger users. What are some of the ramifications of too much screen time among young children?

1.      Permanent damage to still-developing brains

Various abilities that parents are eager to foster among their children, such as communication, concentration, and perception, are harmed by too much screen time, too soon.

Between birth and age three is a critical period. These tender years lay out the permanent foundation on which all brain function later rises.

You must do what you can to support brain development. Mobile devices, unfortunately, do not offer the required stimuli for young children; as such, too much use could stunt their development.

2.      Blue light blights

The white LEDS that light up screens are composed mainly of blue lights, the improper exposure to which elicits quite a number of health repercussions. Some of these are:

  •         Eye strain and discomfort
  •         Premature aging of the eyes
  •         Melatonin suppression (disruption of the natural sleep cycle)

3.      Vestibular confusion

The vestibular system – the one in charge of balance and spatial awareness – is also affected by screen time. When a child’s vision is processing what the screen displays, the vestibular system is put on hold.

Once screen time is over, it is unlocked and has a hard time re-adjusting. This often leads to irritability and drastic mood swings.

4.      Unhealthy attachment

The brain responds with dopamine (the neurotransmitter associated with feelings of pleasure) at every immediate stimuli response that screen time interaction brings forth. Dopamine hits can be addicting, hence a child’s unequivocal preference for mobile devices.

5.      Difficulty in real-world perception and connection

Young users tend to expect life to similarly operate on a power switch. They tend to expect actions to have an instantaneous effect. They miss out on developing their ability to read non-verbal cues and other social signals. They also fail to suitably hone their empathic acuity.

How Can the Threat Be Thwarted?

Despite discouragement from experts regarding any screen time at all for those under two years of age, and warnings to limit the next age bracket to no more than an hour or two per day, many parents still succumb to the quick fix that is keeping their little ones quiet and still by sticking a smartphone or tablet into their small hands.

If you find yourself guilty of doing this with your own children, here are some tips to help you manage their screen time:

1.      Plan ahead.

Come up with a list of possible engaging activities for the day. This will keep you from drawing a blank once you have tasks to get done and a toddler or two underfoot. Sometimes even when you’re available to play, you might not find inspiration on demand and end up indulging them with the use of a tablet or phone.

If you don’t plan for these moments, you might turn to the easiest option, which would probably be some sort of screen time. Pack a busy kit in your bag or a busy box for the car. This way, you have a screen-free go-to for your children’s entertainment.

2.      Let them get bored.

The problem with this solution probably has more to do with your mindset. Either you feel guilty for not giving them the stimuli or you feel scared that boredom will lead to mischief.

First, you have to realize that boredom isn’t a bad thing. There may be tears, but these are the kind that will allow them to push their imagination, develop resilience, and learn self-regulation.

Also, the thing with babies and toddlers is that they are easily entertained. They find the most mundane things fascinating. Persistent crankiness wouldn’t stem from boredom.

3.      Help the village.

In case you have babysitters, grandparents, or other occasional caregivers, provide them with practical help to support your screen-free or limited screen time campaign.

Share your list of activities with them. Leave your busy box with them. Teach them songs and games that entertain your children. Equipped with these tools, they’ll be much less inclined to park your children in front of a screen.

4.      Lead by example.    

You have to practice what you preach. How are your kids supposed to be amenable to no or limited screen time when your eyes are always glued to your own phone or tablet?

Model healthy and appropriate use of your devices to inspire your little ones toward similar behavior and a positive response to screen time control.

A Happy Medium

Unless you’re advocating for a completely screen-free childhood, moderation should be a sufficient solution. It may be a tough task, but with the help of the above tips, it’s absolutely achievable.

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