My toddler's favourite item in the house has to be my phone, we co-own it, really.
I'm not sure when she figured it all out but she is able to navigate the phone like a pro, from YouTube Kids to answering the phone and playing her favourite songs. Just the other day I had to apologise to my WhatsApp contacts for the unclear voice notes she sent.
As a parent, I feel bad for allowing her to have so much screen time, but on the other hand, I'm surprised at how much she has learned over this period.
My 3-year old daughter only started creche this year, but with the lockdown, she has been home with us most of the time. We try to do activities to stimulate her inquisitive mind in between virtual meetings and entertaining a 1-year old baby boy, but to be honest, in most cases, she is on my phone watching cartoons and sing-alongs on YouTube kids.
We have seen that she has developed a lot of educational skills when it comes to language use, social interaction, colours, maths skills and a lot more, not to mention drama skills - she imitates everything they do.
These are some of the things she has picked up:
- At home, we speak in isiZulu, but she is learning and is able to construct sentences in English
- She knows the different colours: red, yellow, orange, blue, green and pink to mention a few
- She points at items and names them
- Sing-a-longs have become a favourite in the house, from twinkle twinkle little star to rain rain go away.
How much is too much?
The downside of all of this, and a concern to every parent, is the worry that we might be affording our children too much screen time.
When our daughter is on the phone, her concentration is on the phone alone, and she will ignore you if you want her to do something else. Sometimes we need to take away the phone just to get her to eat.
Parenting expert and qualified social worker, Joey Dlamini, says that as much as we cannot run away from technology, it is still important to use it responsibly.
"Our kids are more likely to model what we do than what we say," he says.
"So we need to model healthy screen time habits such as having time away from our screens, focusing on the person that is with you more than the screen (easier said than done), being intentional about the content that we are exposed to and are exposing to our kids and having other activities besides being on our screen."
He adds, "Trust your gut as a parent and know that you know what's best for your kids."
According to research from the American Academy of Paediatrics, there should be no screen time for children under two years old and only one hour daily for children between two and four years old.
Below, Dlamini shared some pros and cons of screen time for children aged two and above:
- It can assist with early learning through repeating and mimicking the content that they see
- It aids communication - I know kids who learned how to speak a second language from the apps that they see and listen to
- It helps children connect with others, especially during this new normal of Covid-19 where families are isolated from others
- It can open up their world to other experiences
- If not monitored, kids can become too attached to their screens and spend more than the recommended hours on it
- Being exposed to content that is not age-appropriate will negatively affect kids
- If overdone, it can make it challenging to separate online life from real life
How long are your kids on screens each day? Has the pandemic changed things? Let us know...
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