In an era when iPads are beating out Legos for the top spot on kids' Christmas wish lists, parents need to be mindful that moderation is the key in this digital age, according to Montefiore Medical Center child psychologist Rahil Briggs, Psy.D.
"While electronic devices and gadgets can be educational and often provide parents time to tackle their to-do lists, we're learning that too much screen time can impact brain and language development in children," said Dr. Briggs, director of the Healthy Steps program at The Children's Hospital at Montefiore. "Technology and games may play important roles in our lives, but we can't forget the value of personal interaction and healthy lifestyles."
Dr. Briggs, who is an expert in early child development, shares some tips for parents whose children might be getting what they wished for this holiday season:
• Limit use of electronics - The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under two years old and no more than two hours per day for children two and above.
• Strike a balance - Research has shown that infant media exposure has tripled in the last two decades. Parents should encourage kids to switch between screen time and traditional activities such as puzzles and coloring books, which help to develop fine motor and problem solving skills.
• Parental interaction is key - Kids who spend more time watching TV or playing with a tablet device tend to receive less attention from their parents, and as a result, the child's language development is negatively impacted; they learn fewer words by certain milestones. Parents should make time each day to talk with your child, read with your child and play with your child.
• Encourage group play - Interacting as part of a group is important for the development of social and interpersonal skills. Children should be encouraged to interact with peers rather than spending the majority of time engrossed in a solo activity.
• Encourage a mix of activities - Overstimulation from TV, iPads and computer games can lead to the brain becoming accustomed to a high level of stimulus, making traditional activities, like book reading, boring. Parents should encourage kids to spend time doing other activities as well; consider having a trade-off - 30 minutes of TV = 30 minutes of outdoor play.
"We've been seeing an increase in screen time for many years," Dr. Briggs said. "And with more devices available than ever, parents should try to consider them as a treat - just like dessert."
Montefiore Medical Center