How to Manage Screen Time for Toddlers and Preschoolers?
How do we manage screen time for our children?
This question divides, fascinates and troubles many families. There are many recommendations and it seems important for us to summarize what is known in the early childhood field.
Numbers from Around the Globe
As for many topics on education, there is what we say and… what we do. Most recent statistics indicate that in North America, children under two years old spent an average of 50 minutes a day in front of a screen. It goes up to 2 ½ hours for children between two and four years old. In France, two thirds of children under two have access to a screen every day. There is no exact number for Switzerland, but we guess that it is relatively similar.
After one hour of screen time, children are subject to a lost of curiosity and creativity. Those who spend time in front of screen each day also have more difficulties concentrating et have trouble handling their mood swings.
This is due to the fact that screens are “self-sufficient”. They provide enough, perhaps too much, stimuli and the child does not feel the need to search for other interactions.
How Do the Educators Handle Screens ?
Estelle is part of the management duo in our Babilou Mies daycare. After many years of experience, she noticed that toddlers and preschoolers who are particularly exposed to screens display typical behaviors, which can be problematic in the long term: they are more easily annoyed and know fewer words. It can also hinder social relations with other children.
“In Babilou Mies, we never use screens with the children. However, they do enjoy a “light room” in which they can discover dimmed lights and color contrasts in an environment suited to their needs.”
Absolutely avoid screens in the morning, at bedtime and during mealtime. These are key moments when it is important for children to be able to concentrate on what they are doing and not be over-stimulated.
One of the Solutions
Two points are particularly important: developing children autonomy and knowing the real time children spend in front of a screen. One of the solutions is to measure this time with the Bizzy !
This device was invented by Sandra Delavy-Gaiddon, who describes herself as a “designer mom”. She was inspired by her life and her children when she realized it was difficult and time-consuming to handle this subject day to day as an already-busy parent.
To avoid using another app, she created a small animal, in which children can insert coins equivalent to a precise screen time. This visual support can give them a better understanding of the time and especially allow them the freedom to decide when and how they use their authorized time.
Sandra worked with some early childhood professionals, psychiatrists, school medical staff and educators to perfect her invention in order to cater it to the needs of the youngest. To match perfectly with the creator’s vision, Bizzy is made in wood and is entirely mechanical, there is no need for batteries. Find more details on her website.
Remember however that it is not a quick fix! Parents should remain involved, even when using the Bizzy.
Keys to Success in Handling Screen Time
- Give power back to the child. You could tell them that they have the choice to turn off a screen: if the content is annoying, if they do not want to watch it anymore, or if they would prefer to start another activity.
- Avoid having a screen in the bedroom: this includes television, phone, tablet or games console
- When possible, do not leave your child alone in front of the screen; try to initiate an interaction about what is going on the screen, details about the story or characters
- Be careful during key-moments: Try to skip screens in first thing in the morning when children wake up, in the evening before bed and during meals
- Be aware of the real screen time and adapt your way of proceeding accordingly.