Studies around the development of the human brain show that 90% of brain development happens before kindergarten. The baby’s brain is about a quarter of the size of an adult’s brain at birth. This doubles in the first year, and by the age of five, the brain is almost fully developed.
With that information at hand, an infant child care question parents ask is how to maximize the brain’s growth potential in those vital formative years? Where do technology and screen time fit into the equation?
What A Developing Brain Needs
A child is very sensitive to the environment in the first few years of life. Using all five of their senses, infants are very sensitive to stimuli. It is during this stage, while absorbing the world around them, that they learn to concentrate and focus. It has been proven that apart from good nutrition, the brain also needs human interaction to grow.
Charles Nelson, a Professor of Pediatrics and neuroscientist at Harvard University specializes in the development of the human brain. His studies conclude that brain development relies on the human face. From birth, a baby learns to study a face and identify if the person is happy or sad, an essential requirement for social skills and empathy later in life.
Patricia Kuhl, a Professor of Speech and Hearing Sciences at the University of Washington studies about 4000 babies a year. Brain scans and studies conclude that babies don’t learn anything from machines, but only from human interaction.
Bearing the above studies in mind, The World Health Organization (WHO) states that for healthy brain development:
- A child should not be exposed to screen time for the first two years.
- A child should be limited to only one hour of screen time per day between the age of two and four years.
- Parents should research what media they are exposing their child to, and only good-quality media should be allowed.
- Parents should always be present and engaging with the child during screen time.
What Are the Negative Effects Of Too Much Screen Time?
We are not saying that screen time needs to be eliminated altogether, but it should be strictly controlled, and never be a substitute for human interaction.
The negative effects of too much screen time include:
Shorter Attention Span
The constant absorption of onscreen images, messages, and voices, hijacks the child’s attention span. Instead of developing the brain, it shortens the child’s attention span.
Lack Of Empathy
Children learn to read faces and body language from an early age. They soon learn to decipher if you are happy or sad and respond appropriately. This is essential for their ability to empathize later in life.
Studies prove that children who are exposed to too much screen time and not enough human interaction, not only lack empathy later in life but also lack the necessary social skills to engage with adults and play with their peers.
Stifles Motivation and Imagination
Children need playtime to develop their imagination. Children who are exposed to long hours of screen time, lack the coping mechanisms to soothe themselves when they are bored. They lack the ability and motivation to entertain themselves and are often frustrated when expected to do so.
Delayed Language Development
Studies have proven that children exposed to too much screen time before the age of four, had a much more limited vocabulary than their peers who had had predominantly human interaction.
Delayed Physical Development and Weight Gain
For muscles and bones to develop adequately, they need to be used. By playing outdoors, children develop muscle tone as well as fine and gross motor skills. Being physically active from an early age sets the pattern for healthy, physically active adulthood.
It has been proven that children who spend too much time in front of a screen, usually suffer from weight issues, and develop unhealthy habits that are later difficult to break.
- Set strict screen time rules early. Setting rules early makes them easier to enforce later.
- Set a specific time in the day aside for screen time. Try not to deviate from that time. If it is a rainy day and you choose to watch a movie with your toddler, make sure they see this as a special event and not the norm.
- Turn off the television and put electronic devices away when it is not the allocated time. Eliminate temptation and distracting background noise. Make it inconvenient to watch television or electronic devices by keeping them out of sight.
- Never allow devices or a television in your toddler’s bedroom, especially at bedtime.
- Only allow them to watch age-appropriate content. Research all content and make every effort to watch it with them. Engage them in conversation while watching.
- Link what they watch on the screen, to a book. If they enjoy watching programs with wildlife, try to buy them books about wildlife. This will encourage them to seek out physical books instead of electronic versions.
- Be a good role model. Monitor your own screen time, especially when your toddler is around.
- Ensure that the child care facility or caregiver is on the same page as you. Your toddler needs to know that rules are enforced, no matter who is caring for them.
- Screen time needs to be viewed as a privilege, not an expectation.
How To Manage Your Infant or Toddlers Screen Time
Don’t beat yourself up if you need a few minutes to yourself and plop your toddler in front of the television. The idea behind managing screen time is not to remove it altogether but to have as little of it as possible.
Here are some tips to help you set screen time boundaries:
Infant Child Care At Providence Children’s Academy
At Providence Children’s Academy, we don’t rely on screen time, but choose to engage with our children face to face. For any infant child care questions, or to find out more about our facility, call 954-570-6914 Monday to Friday 6.30 am to 6.30 pm.