Jun 06 , 2020

Responsibly Using Tech With Your Toddler

It’s almost impossible to divorce yourself from technology in an age where Netflix and Amazon reign supreme. Many kids have now become experts at the art of browsing the web, playing video games, and even building their own unique creations online. However, many parenting experts also caution parents against parking their kids in front of a TV or laptop for too long. After all, families, teachers, and psychologists are no stranger to the consequences of internet addiction and prolonged isolation.

You don’t have to keep your smartphone in a safe when your child is around. It’s still very much possible to let our kids enjoy the wonders of the digital age. The important thing to remember is that supervision and guidance is extremely important for influential toddlers. We need to hang around our kids when they watch TV or play with a smartphone and establish important boundaries. Otherwise, they could end up with eye problems, game or internet addiction, and other developmental problems. Here are some great tips for responsibly using technology with your young toddler.


1. Don’t Start Too Early


Televisions and smartphones might make good distractions, but they don’t really help with socio-emotional or cognitive development. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), it takes 18 months for a baby’s brain to become capable of understanding the shapes and symbols on a screen. Younger babies won’t learn anything at all from “educational” TV channels, videos, or apps since their brains aren’t wired for that kind of passive learning yet.

Babies learn by doing, not viewing. That’s why baby toys are specially designed to be shaken, pressed, thrown, and played with. Our young ones learn about the world when they explore and interact with whatever is around them. Babies and toddlers who are played with and read to very often are more likely to develop cognitive and socio-emotional skills than kids who are left alone for long periods of time.

In the end, it’s much better to provide your child with educational toys and books than to rely on smartphone apps. You can still video chat with your little one or try using apps with them as long as you stick to a strict time limit and maintain constant supervision.


2. Learn With Your Child

Studies have shown that kids learn best from educational media when they experience meaningful social interaction alongside passive viewing. Kids are more likely to learn new words and develop higher-order thinking skills when adults praise them for accomplishing tasks. On the other hand, kids who don’t get to play games or read with their parents aren’t likely to learn much at all.

When handling any piece of educational media with your child, be sure to praise them (“Good job! That’s right!”) for accomplishing tasks and giving the right answers. Ask questions about what’s on the screen (“What color is that box?”), and choose educational materials that are recommended by the AAP and other parenting experts, such as PBS and Sesame Street. Many educational apps found online might not be as helpful as you think.


3. Set Boundaries

The AAP recommends that toddlers older than 2 years old, as well as babies older than 18 months, watch TV for no more than 1 hour a day. If you let your child watch too many hour-long specials they could miss out on building meaningful cognitive and socio-emotional skills or depend way too much on a TV for stimulation. On occasions where you and your child do get to enjoy a movie together turn the TV off after half an hour instead of watching everything at once. To avoid temper tantrums try doing playing games and doing fun activities after your viewing time is done.


4. Pick Programs Carefully

Kids can benefit from carefully chosen and child-friendly television. In fact, the AAP has sung praises for Sesame Street and PBS programs. You might be tempted to expose your toddler to the joys of anime or Star Wars at a young age, but that may do more harm than you think. Violent scenes (even funny Tom and Jerry-style violence) can distress young kids and instill the wrong values in them. Toddlers are very likely to feel stressed or confused when they watch a character hurting someone else in a movie or TV show. In some cases, they could even imitate what they see and end up doing dangerous stunts.

Commercials are also a big no-no for young kids. Exciting ads that promote fast food or depict age-inappropriate content can pave the path for obesity and instill wrong values in impressionable toddlers. Young kids can also feel confused and forget what they were supposed to be watching when commercials interrupt their viewing time. They could end up processing information in short, quick bursts instead of building a strong attention span. In other words, little Timmy might end up trying to learn shapes all in one go instead of dealing with new information piece by piece.