My 3-year-old loves playing with digital devices. She often cries when I take it away from her or throws a tantrum. I would like to know how much daily screen time is appropriate for a child her age and what are the dangers of over-exposure to digital devices?
Tech Savvy Mum, Kajang
Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics came up with recommendations for children’s use of devices.
For children aged 2 to 5, the limit for screen use is one hour per day (referring to quality programmes).
Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
Choose media that is interactive, non-violent, educational and pro-social.
Excessive screen use can increase the risk of obesity. Watching TV for more than 1.5 hours daily is a risk factor for obesity in children aged 4 to 9. Media use can interfere with
sleep as well.
Exposure to to light (particularly blue light) and stimulating content from screens can delay or disrupt sleep, and have a negative effect on school.
Children can be victims of cyberbullying that can lead to short and long-term negative social, academic and health issues.
Parents are encouraged to develop a personalised plan to control their children’s use of media.
They need to communicate that plan to other caregivers such as babysitters or grandparents so that media rules are followed consistently.
Here are a few simple rules that can be applied in your daily life:
* Parents need to monitor children’s media, for example, know what apps are used or downloaded. Test apps before your child uses them, play together and ask your child what he or she thinks about the app.
* Turn off TVs and other devices when not in use. Background media can distract from parent-child interaction and child play, which are both very important in child language and social-emotional development.
* Keep bedrooms, mealtimes and parent-child playtimes screen-free. Turn off phones or set to silent mode during these times.
* Avoid exposure to devices or screens one hour before bedtime. Remove devices from bedrooms before bed.
* Avoid using media as the only way to calm your children.
Answers provided by Dr Lim Kok Chong
consultant paediatrician, Columbia Asia Hospital — Bukit Rimau.
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