Young children and screen time

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There are times when it is tempting to sit children in front of screens so you can get household tasks done or just have a break.

All parents and carers need breaks but too much screen time not good for your child. Where possible try to swap screen time for other activities.

What is screen time?

Watching screens and playing games using screens. For example:

  • TV and DVDs
  • playing computer, electronic or video style games
  • smart phones and tablets.

Why should screen time be limited?

Too much screen time means not enough time for children to be active. When children are not active enough they miss out on opportunities to:

  • develop and strengthen important movement skills like running, catching and jumping
  • mix with others and develop social skills like taking turns and making friends.

Young children are naturally active - it is not normal them to be sitting for long periods of time.

For babies and young toddlers too much screen time can have negative effects on:

  • eye development
  • social and language development

For toddlers and preschool children too much screen time can:

  • slow down ongoing language development
  • reduce short term memory and concentration
  • have negative effects on social skills
  • mess up sleep patterns
  • increase the risk of unhealthy eating habits and maintaining a healthy weight

How much is too much?

National guidelines recommend that each day:

  • children under the age of 2 years should have no screen time
  • children aged between 2-5 years should have no more than one hour of screen time

What about TV shows for young children?

Some people think that ‘educational’ programs aimed at children under the age of 2 years can help children learn things but there are no educational or developmental benefits.