There are ways to use technology that can enhance your child’s learning. Here are some tips on how and when to share screen time with your child.

Tips for Your Baby/Toddler (Birth to 36 months):
  • Limit your own screen time: When your child is a baby, screen time is not really an issue for him. But you need to set limits around your television viewing and screen use in general. When your baby is awake and alert, he needs to be interacting with you in a fun, developmentally appropriate way.  Your screen time should be saved for when he is napping. 
  • Plan screen time and watch together: As a toddler, your child will be curious about the screens in your home and want to play with them. Incorporate screen time into your routine, setting clear start and end times, and make sure you are actively engaged with your child, talking about what you are watching and experiencing together.
  • Encourage music: Incorporating a dance party into playtime allows your child to be active, and is a great way to enjoy music together. You can play music from the TV, a tablet, or an ipod. Just make sure the music is age-appropriate (consider the lyrics), and watch the volume – nothing too loud.
  • Choose educational media: When your child is interacting with a screen ensure that the content is appropriate for her age, and that it offers some form of learning. Programs or games you expose your child to should stimulate her body or her mind, the same way she would be stimulated by colouring, singing, helping you prepare a meal, or playing in the park.   
Tips for Your Preschooler (36 months to 48 months):
  • Set realistic limits: Preschoolers are more interested in screens, and are likely watching more programs and movies. Set limits accordingly. If you’ve allowed your child to watch a movie, then don’t shut it off because her one hour of screen time is up. Perhaps the new limit is one show or movie per day rather than one hour. What’s important is that you be consistent.
  • Continue to watch with your child: You need to keep watching with your child to make sure what he is watching is age appropriate. Also, watching together allows you to take advantage of the learning and teaching opportunities that may come up in the show. Certain programs can teach your child actual academic skills (counting, recognition of letters), and others can make your child more aware about social issues that affect children in your community, and the world. Talk about these issues and ask your child to come up with some possible solutions.
  • Be a media role model. If you are creating limitations for your child then be sure that you model those behaviours as well. Show your child that you can demonstrate self-control when it comes to devices, and be conscious of the types of programs you watch in front of your child. Your child will get the message that she too must choose wisely to get the best experience out of the screen time allotted. 
  • Don’t try to keep up with technology: Technology is changing so fast these days t hat anything you have in your house now may well be obsolete in two years. Don’t worry about your child falling behind. If you focus on helping your child learn to communicate, cooperate and self-regulate, she will have the skills to continue to learn and adapt to new technologies.

Want more tips? Read all of the tips from our partnership with Infant Mental Health Promotion at SickKids.