In 2011 the average child under age 8 engaged in five minutes of mobile-based screen-time per day, according to Common Sense Media. By 2013 this number tripled to 15 minutes. In 2017 the number tripled again, reaching an average of 48 minutes per day. Technology use is a fact of life — even for your preschooler.
Instead of banning all tech-time activities, take a look at how you can help your young child to use media wisely.
Talk to the Teacher
Does your child use technology at school? Whether the classroom has a computer or the kids share a tablet to play educational apps on, you need to know about it.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents limit screen time for children ages 2 through 5 years to one hour per day. If your child engages in technology use during their preschool day, this counts towards their overall screen-time total.
Along with asking the teacher about the quantity of time spent using screens, ask about the quality. What apps does your child use? What software is on the preschool’s computer? The answers to these questions serve a dual purpose. You’ll get a better picture of what your child does in school/what the preschool’s technology curriculum includes, and you’ll also learn how to better use these types of activities with your child.
Unless the game, app, or other media is something that preschool teacher prescreens and vouches for, you need to watch it first. If the media is a game, play the game yourself. This allows you to fully understand the learning aspects of it and decide whether it’s a valuable developmental tool or not.
Watching media or playing a game before your child tries it out also gives you the opportunity to make sure that it doesn’t contain anything that’s too adult, offensive, scary, or inappropriate.
Screening your child’s media activity before they use it is a first step. But it’s not the only one to take. You also need to make their tech-time into an active event.
Instead of allowing your preschooler to sit by themselves and passively watch a screen, involve yourself in their tech-time activities. Sit next to your child as they use their tablet, a computer, or your smartphone. Encourage your child to actively interact with the media. Ask them questions, start a conversation, or play a game with them.
Even though it’s acceptable for preschoolers to engage in screen time for up to one hour per day, they don’t need to get 60 solid minutes in at one time. Breaking up your child’s media use into blocks gives them the chance to reset, recharge, and explore different modes of learning.
After 10 or 15 minutes of screen time, encourage your child to move on to a new (non-computer-based) activity. Set up a finger painting or drawing station for your child to express their creativity, go outside and run around the yard, read a book together, try out a mini science experiment, or come up with your own activity based on your child’s interests.
Be a Role Model
Along with encouraging healthy tech-time behaviors, show your child what is and isn’t acceptable through your own behaviors. Take a time audit of your total computer, tablet, video game, or smartphone use.
If you’re a major technology consumer, consider pulling back. Set limits for yourself and explain these self-imposed guides to your child. This may help them to better understand their scree-time rules.
Is your child ready to start pre-k? Are you searching for a quality preschool program? Contact Advantage Learning Center for more information on programs.