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Media education for babies and toddlers

2020-11-18 00:00:00

Written by Amber Simons

Screen time and media use among children are popular themes in our digital society. These are subjects that include a lot questions when it comes to the upbringing of children. In fact, more questions are asked about his, than about sleeping and nutrition. Therefore, we take you into research on this subject and list some tips. It is also definitely worthwhile discussing this together because, in doing so, you can help guide your child in their use of digital media from the get-go. 

Positive effects of digital media use
Due to the rapidly growing range, and frequent use, of digital media among adults and children, there has been a great deal of research carried out about the topic. There are studies on numbers: how often and for how long do children look at a screen? But in recent years, there have been more and more studies on the consequences screen time has on the development of children. Something that many parents/guardians are curious about.
There are some studies that have shown that a lot of screen time has a negative effect on development, while other studies have not found any significant effect. What’s more, other studies have shown that young children can learn logical reasoning and cognitive skills from videos. Research has also shown that the use of a touchscreen by young children is connected to fine motor development, such as a child’s ability to stack blocks or hold a pencil 

2,5 hours screen time per day
Young children (0-6 years of age) look at a screen for an average of 1 hour and 45 minutes a day. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, this has increased to an average of 2.5 hours a day. Due to the unusual circumstances and being at home more this year, parents/guardians have become less strict.
In the Netherlands, 80% of all parents/guardians wonder how much screen time is healthy for their child. Perhaps you do too. And just as many parents/guardians wonder what they can provide their child as an alternative to media use. At the same time, 84% are also happy that they can sometimes fall back on a screen to keep their child occupied. On the one hand, media use brings serenity to family life, but on the other hand, most parents/guardians would prefer their child do other things than stare at a screen. Many parents/guardians struggle with a good balance.

Healthy screen time
It is difficult to determine exactly what is considered healthy with regards to maximum time on a screen. One specialist says a maximum of 10 minutes, while another says a maximum of an hour. There is no official advice on this matter available yet. After all, families and children also differ. It is therefore important that you, as a parent/guardian, assess what is good for your child. A guideline here can be to pay attention to when your child is no longer concentrating on the screen; that is a good indicator that it is time for another activity.

This is how you find a good balance
It’s quite normal to find it difficult determining what is healthy media use for your child. You are not alone and in this modern society there are screens everywhere, which does not make it easier to find a good balance. Remember: if you want your child to cut down on their screen time and media use, it doesn’t have to be done in one fell swoop. Try it step by step. And perhaps the following tips will help you further:

  • Be a good example: The time that you, as a parent/guardian, spend behind a screen reflects on your child’s screen time. Children see and copy your behaviour. And by looking at mum and dad, they learn what’s normal. Therefore, make sure you limit your own screen time. This way you are a good role model and you instantly actively create more quality time with your child. Also be aware of your reactions to something you watch or do together. If you are very disappointed with the unsuccessful completion of a game, or react with shock to a video, your child will adopt the same reactions.
  • Ensure variety: Try to encourage your child to move around all the time instead of sitting in front of a screen. Movement is essential for the healthy physical development of your child. It is therefore better to have a Pikler Triangle (small climbing frame) in the room than to give your child their own tablet. You can also make sure that screen time is just one of the things you do at home, rather than being the main activity. For example, blow bubbles or go outside together at other times; let your child play, read or dance on their own; put on a children’s playlist and let them sing along with it; or put on an audiobook.
  • Make agreements: By making agreements it is clear to everyone what is and what is not acceptable, and you will avoid difficult moments, such as taking your child away from the screen. As well as making agreements about how long your child can spend on certain digital media, also be sure to agree upon which times and which videos/games you find suitable. It is also important to be clear with young children who aren’t able to speak yet. They understand more than you think, so be clear about the situation. In addition, help your child prepare to end the activity. Young children have no sense of time yet, so give them fair warning, both five minutes in advance and two minutes in advance.
  • Do it together: Firstly, this way you can keep an eye on what your child is doing online and prevent any unwanted media use. In addition, it is good for the development of your child if you react to what is happening and talk about what you see. For example, ask questions, name (new) words or point out something in a video to your child that they had not yet noticed. Do a dance if that is also done in the video or make an association to the real world, for example: ‘We also have a tree in our garden, look!’
  • Choose consciously: Media with lots of colour, movement and sound is extremely attractive, yet not all videos or games are equally suitable. Do not pay attention to labels such as ‘educational’; for young children, everything is still educational and there is no such thing as ‘real education like the one they receive at school’. Furthermore: pay attention to whether the media matches your child’s interests and development phase. Make sure your child recognises aspects and can associate them with their own daily life. In addition to that, provide repetition. Young children especially enjoy repetition; they learn from it.

At CompaNanny, children do not use tablets, but we do pay attention to different activities that match the needs of each child.

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