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Many toddlers are naturally drawn to objects with buttons, bright colors, movement and sound. Some traditional toys fill the bill, but if you’re noticing your toddler would rather watch videos or play with your smart phone or tablet PC, you’re not alone. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, 66% of preschoolers are over the recommended limit on daily screen time, averaging four hours per day whether they were in day care or at home.1 The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says children ages two to five should spend no more than two hours per day watching TV and DVDs, playing video games or using a computer, and those under two should avoid it altogether.
Experts disagree on the effects of too much screen time, with some cautioning that overexposure can cause language delays. Others say well-designed, age appropriate touch screen applications, for example, can encourage creative play and learning.2 Whatever you think is right for your child, these tips on managing his screen time may come in handy:
- Be aware of your own habits. Toddlers often mimic adults, so if you watch TV during dinner or talk on the phone while walking through the park, your child may want to do the same.
- Don’t rely on the digital babysitter. It can be easy for a toddler to become mesmerized by cartoons and video games. Pay attention to how long your child is in front of the screen to avoid minutes turning into hours.
- Set limits. Your toddler is at an age when he’s learning limits and rules. Establish and enforce concrete rules such as “two hours of TV or computer time per day” or “G or PG rated movies only.”