Dr. Chip Donohue, director of the Technology in Early Childhood (TEC) Center at Erikson Institute, recommends five things every parent, caregiver, and educator should consider when thinking about “screen time” in the digital age:
- All screens are not created equal. Look for experiences that are interactive, include positive interactions with others and give children control.
- Shift from “how much” children watch to “what they watch.” Consider the quality of the content, level of engagement and opportunity for interactions.
- Manage your own screen use thoughtfully. Children learn habits by watching the adults around them, so model healthy media habits early and often.
- Watch together. Joint engagement with media promotes learning.
- Plan for unplugged time. Ask, “What can we do together when we turn off the screen?” Encourage playtime, including outdoor time.
“Most screen time limits are based on one child passively watching one TV,” Dr. Donohue says. “Technology and our understanding of it have come a long way.”
Don’t have time to research the best shows and apps? Start with a few minutes of “joint engagement”—watching or playing on a device with your child—or simply ask your child questions about what he or she is watching, Dr. Donohue says.