Age-Appropriate Screen Time Restrictions – (Babies Under 2 Years)
At this stage, real life experiences and interactions are far more useful to baby's growth than screen time.
Babies under two years old are a bundle of joy (for the most part). But from my recent experiences, it seems as if babies come with a built-in knack for technology. In my own dealings with baby, I’ve notice if I put a bunch of toys on the floor along with my iPhone, baby will pass over all the other toys and go straight for the iPhone. Surprising, she can also tap and swipe and mimic my behavior. As an eye doctor, I understand the risks associated with excessive screen use and would prefer to delay her focus on screens as long as possible. Ideally, we can limit tech use to video chatting only until about the age of two.
Age-Appropriate Screen Time Limitation for Babies Under Two
Limit tech usage to the absolute minimum
During this stage, it’s not a good idea to catch baby’s attention with an electronic device, no matter how convenient it may be. This suggestion is easier said than done, especially when baby’s fussiness is out of control and you’re down to your last ounce of patience. Before the age of two, baby’s screen use should be kept to an absolute minimum. This is because her/his brain is growing very fast during this stage. And these formative years are extremely important to several aspects of baby’s development including emotional, social, verbal and motor skills.
I’m not suggesting baby should be banned from electronic devices altogether. Only the bare minimum should be the goal. At this point, real life experiences and interactions are far more useful to baby’s growth. It’s probably not a bad idea to slowly introduce baby to technology, but as long as it doesn’t take away from the social aspect of development. In fact, apps like FaceTime or other video chat platforms may even help with progress in the social realm. If done slowly and closely monitored, baby may even be able to form the base of language skills through seeing and hearing those familiar faces (partner, relatives, friends) on the other side of the phone. When it comes to language development, face to face conversation is a must. Young children who spend a significant amount of time listening to conversations on television may actually become language delayed.
Get back to basics
Of course technology is rapidly changing, and it’s hard to keep up. But maybe keeping up isn’t the best thing for baby’s growth? In fact, getting back to basics is probably a good idea because at this age baby doesn’t understand the difference. Instead of an electronic device, maybe incorporate a book. Instead of watching videos (even educational ones), try teaching baby yourself. I notice the same thing with toys as well. There’s really no need to spend a bunch of money on toys when baby can occupy her/his time with basic household items (within reason). Things like small pots or pans, boxes and paper towel tube are some of my own baby’s favorites.
Hands on training
The use of screens and/or videos have actually been linked to developmental delays in children. That said, it’s definitely a better idea to go hands on when it comes to early growth. Putting in necessary time with baby isn’t as convenient as placing her/him in front of a television, an iPad or a cell phone, but it’s definitely better for baby’s long-term overall development.
Learn more together
The idea of having a baby always sounds better in theory. But when baby actually comes, that’s when the hard part begins. Tending to baby is a lot of work and parents today are busier than ever. Having to juggle several aspects of life along with raising baby is no easy task. It’s better to work as a team (especially at home) and it’s better to use books and actual toys instead of using technology to babysit. Music, reading or even talking aloud helps baby recognize letters, colors and shapes better than any app. A favorite activity for me is to walk baby around the home and tell her what all the objects are called and let her touch them.
Control what you can control
Several things can be incorporated on the parental end to ensure success in regulating baby’s screen time. Parental controls are a fairly new development and can be instituted quite easily. A good idea may be to set aside a certain amount of time for screen use each day. It also makes sense to put your devices on “lock-down” to prevent accidents. Devices should be kept as far out of reach from baby as possible. They should also be kept separate from baby’s regular toys. Once baby is old enough to understand basic instructions, new rules should be implemented.