Today, September 8, is International Literacy Day (#internationalliteracyday). And last Sunday was Read a Book Day (#readabookday). So, in honor of both holidays, let’s talk about getting our kids to read.
First, I’d like to focus on what pediatricians are saying about screen time, though. More and more, our kids are using screens for school and their personal life, which often pushes reading an actual book by the wayside.
The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) recently revised its guidelines on screen time for kids. The new recommendations offer helpful advice for parents trying to keep up with a world that has gone from Saturday morning cartoons to nonstop digital media exposure.
For years, the AAP advised a 2 hour limit on screen time for children over 2, and no screen time for younger children. Today, they’re recommending no digital media for infants up to 18 months, and one hour for children 2 to 5. Parents of older kids are encouraged to consider what works in their individual circumstances.
Learn more about how to monitor your child’s use of digital media, and address issues of content and context. You’ll find answers to many of your questions in the new AAP statement.
Screen Time Guidelines for Any Age
- Manage entertainment. The limits apply to digital entertainment. Other activities like online homework and video calls with grandparents don’t count as screen time here.
- Fill up on healthy activities. Streaming TV shows and playing video games are for the hours left over after more important priorities. These include physical exercise, academics, socializing, and sleep.
- Create quiet zones. Set aside times and spaces free from electronic devices. Keep the phones off at the dinner table and in the bedroom.
- Be a positive role model. Your kids will copy what you do. Spend more time offline and be courteous when you’re online.
Screen Time Guidelines for Infants up to 18 Months
- Understand brain development. Some studies show that screen time can interfere with babies’ language development, memory formation, and sleep. The light and sounds are overstimulating even if they seem to like them.
- Bond together. What babies need is eye contact and interaction. When you’re on the phone, you’re talking and looking at your baby less.
- Communicate two ways. Children learn through interaction. Talk with your child or play a game together.
Screen Time Guidelines for Children 2 to 5
- Curate content. There are lots of apps and programs for kids, but little evidence behind some of those claims. The AAP recommends providers parents can trust, like Sesame Workshop and PBS Kids.
- Avoid cartoons. You might be surprised to learn that small children have trouble understanding animation. Wait until they’re old enough to tell the difference between a cartoon character and a real one.
- Explain ads. Similarly, your toddler is likely to confuse paid ads with the rest of the content. Limit their exposure and talk about the ads they do see. Make a game out of picking healthy snacks instead of junk food.
- Accelerate learning. Education products are ideal for children starting at about age 2. Find something you child enjoys to make learning fun.
Screen Time Guidelines for Children 6 and Older
- Teach safety. As kids grow older, you’ll need to help them understand the consequences of cyberbullying, sexting, and posting personal information. Establish ground rules, spend time together online, and check out the tools your kids use.
- Be creative. Encourage your children to develop and share their talents online. Maybe they’re interested in taking photos, showcasing their crafts, or recording music.
- Avoid overuse injuries. Online activities can sometimes affect your child’s physical and mental health. Too much TV has been associated with depression, and gamer’s thumb and text neck have become common conditions. Set sensible limits and talk with your doctor for more ideas.
Help your kids enjoy age-appropriate screen time at each stage in their development. Input from pediatricians and other experts can guide you towards finding the right balance for you and your family.
How To Read To Your Kids
I recently read an Inc. magainze article from 2017 about a particular way to read to your kids, and I found it interesting. The article was called “Want to Raise Successful Kids? Neuroscience Says Read to Them Like This (But Most Parents Don’t)”. I think most people reading this blog will agree that reading to your child is one of the best things you can do for them. I would argue it’s THE most important thing you can do for them (aside from feeding, clothing, bathing, and loving them, of course).
But I never gave any thought to HOW I was reading to my two kids. In the article, neuroscientists caution against reading before bed becoming a rote, mindless activity, which they say is no better than watching television. The key is to interact with your child while reading. Pausing, for example, to ask them what they would do in a situation a character is facing. Or, asking them what they think will happen next. Maybe you do this already, and I’m pretty sure I do too. However, I had never given it any thought. Now I will.
So, next time you are reading to your child, encourage them to not only be part of the story, but to put themselves in the shoes of the characters and help them understand what others may be thinking and feeling.
If you want to get into the right mindset for literacy and education, listen to this Audio Affirmation. You can listen in the car or before bed. However you listen, it’s sure to help get your head in the right space.
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