We’re fortunate to have access to endless support, education, and entertainment at the touch of a button – even when we’re on the go. As technology advances, however, we’re starting to see growing rates of screen use and we still don’t fully understand the impact of screen time from an early age on our children. As adults, we can monitor our own behaviour, but our little ones need our help to do this and they might be affected by screens more than we think.
The Australian Government recommends no screen time for children under two years and only one hour per day for children 2-5 years. This doesn’t include using screens to interact with friends and family.
So, what are the benefits of monitoring your child’s screen time? Research suggests that young children may:
- Develop a longer attention span allowing them to concentrate and learn better
- Achieve better muscle and eye development
- Increase time available for active play and social interaction
- Increase opportunities for language development
- Establish better sleeping patterns as blue light may make it hard for baby to sleep
If you’re wondering how, as a parent, you can avoid screen time for you and bub – we’ve got some suggestions.
Please note that the below suggestions may support you to be more mindful with your screen behaviours, make changes where you can and understand the benefits of doing so. We understand every day is different!
1. Independent & interactive play
Active play is a wonderful way to keep your baby entertained throughout the day, learn about their environment, and develop new skills.
• Rotate the toys baby is using by putting some away and re-introducing others
• Place babies in front of a mirror so they can make faces at themselves
• Play interactive puzzles and games on a play mat/rug
• Make an indoor obstacle course
• Let baby raid the plastics cupboard and play with the containers
• Help babies’ physical and mental development
• Gives you some space/time to get things done
• Safe environment & baby-safe items
• Always make sure you are close by and constantly checking in on your baby during independent play
2. Social time with family and friends
Parents aren’t the only ones that benefit from catching up with family and
friends! It’s a great way for babies to learn about different sounds, sensations and develop social skills.
• Going for walks or to the playground/shops
• Arrange catch ups with others who have children
• Reading books/story telling or visiting the library
• Great for all ages – parents and bubs!
• Good for your baby’s learning due to all the different sounds and sensations. Allows them to experience the social elements of the outside world and people outside their family.
• Safe environment & baby-safe items
• Adult supervision required
3. Strategic naps throughout the day
Be strategic with naps and use this time to tick off some of those items on your to-do list or use this time for self-care!
• Allows you to get things done or have a nap yourself
• Rested babies are better able to play independently (less needy of attention!)
4. If screen-time happens
Life happens and it’s not always possible to avoid screens. The following tips can help with healthy screen time habits:
• Be a role model with your own screen time habits
• Use good quality, age-appropriate content
• Negotiate screen rules with family/friends
• Make it a joint activity – watch or play with them
• Short bursts – keep track using a timer or limit to one show/one game
For more help getting healthy eating and active play with your baby right from the start, visit infantprogram.org
The evaluation of the INFANT scale-up is funded by an Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Partnership Grant (GNT1161223 2019-24) and VicHealth. Deakin University gratefully acknowledges the Victorian Department of Health for additional funding to enhance the implementation of INFANT across Victoria in 2020-22.
I also talk about us as parents our own screen time, putting limits on when/where we use or phones e.g. you can put “quiet time” on Facebook where if you click into the app prompt you to limit the time you are on facebook- can set this to be only on it for example after kids are in bed.
This is a challenge in our area. Even when walking with a pram Parents are often on their phones talking or scrolling. Find I am constantly talking about the importance of chatting to the baby or toddler about the world around them.
The examples of how to increase active play is simple and gives great examples.
The simplicity of this will make it easy for parents to understand.
These are all good tips.
Mums who may be experiencing PND will find it difficult not to use screens as a means of occupying their children.
I have seen this in my own extended family and I think the TV is used more than it should be.
However, I try to subtley suggest other ways to play with the children and use this approach with the families I see also.
These are some great suggestions for easy and low cost play options. And acknowledging that screen time happens helps parents to feel less judged.
Great ideas to share with parents as even walking down the street i see many parents give their toddlers a phone to look at rather than talking with them about their surroundings.
Great to see “If screen time happens” – as we all know in this day and age it’s almost impossible for there not to be some use of screen. I love the examples and benefits of alternatives.
Great practical information on how to keep baby entertained for parents and not using a screen.
Very useful information as many parents have asked me this very question, how can I entertain and play with my baby.
Yes I like the benefit approach when talking about alternatives to screen time.
It’s great to highlight the importance and benefits of learning to manipulate physical toys, turning pages of books, engaging in songs and rhymes with actions, spending some time outdoors etc, so focusing on the positive aspects of alternatives to screen time rather than focusing on potential negative impacts on screen time.
Living with family overseas makes it impossible to avoid screens and still develop a relationship with grandchildren who we have been unable to visit due to border closures etc. Taking a mindful approach and considering the quality of content is important.
I agree with Val, it is helpful to see tips for reducing screen time and also the ‘if screen time happens’ section. Screens are a huge part of people’s lives and this includes families so we need to be very accepting of this, but at the same time keep the language positive and share as many ideas and tips for keeping screen time to recommended limits.
Pleased to see this doesn’t include using screens to interact with friends and family – enabled families to stay connected – especially during pandemic.