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With so many people owning a phone, tablet or television, and screens in doctor’s offices, malls and restaurants, it can be difficult—or seem impossible–to limit the exposure to screen time with young children.

Recent studies have shown screen time use in young children may have negative impacts on the brain’s white matter — an area key to the development of language, literacy and cognitive skills. In addition, the use of screen time can limit a child’s time and attention in learning other skills they need for healthy development.

Wondering how much screen time is too much for your child? The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommendations for screen time use.

  • For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming and watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing.
  • For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to one hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
  • For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.

Families who want to limit screen time use with their young child may wonder how they can help their child with other activities. Here are a few ways to help your child learn while distancing them from screens.

  • Be the example. Children watch what happens around them to learn what they should or shouldn’t do. Be aware of when you reach for your screen. Put down your screen and engage with your child.
  • Play and engage with your child. Engaging in play with your child helps them learn language skills, fine and large motor skills and more. These skills lay the foundation for ones they will need later in their interactions with friends, teachers, and eventually employers! You don’t need fancy or expensive toys for your child to play. When I Play, I Learn has ways to use common items—like a box—in your child’s play.
  • Help your child join every day activities. Every child can join in with activities, like preparing a meal, folding laundry, grocery shopping and more. Every Day I Learn Through Play (for infants and toddlers) and Learning is Everywhere (for children birth to kindergarten) has tips for ways to use every day activities as a way to help your young child learn.

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