Carol the Coach: Tablets & Phones, Toddlers & Teens

I was recently asked to do a segment on Fox 59 on how much time should children under the age of 3 be exposed to smart phones, notebooks and tablets. In doing the research, there is a consistent message that children under the age of 2 should not be exposed to any devise and children age 3 should not have over 20 minutes of media use because it interferes with the social interaction that they need to learn healthy relational skills according to The American Pediatric Society. Many parents will use their phones or tablets to entertain small children and yet they really need one on one interaction to develop normally. When a child is 3 they are much more likely to be able to assimilate the game playing skills that kids need for intellectual brain skill development. However what we are wondering is at what developmental expense?

In today's hectic world it can be difficult for parents to juggle a very full schedule and take care of young ones. As simple as it may sound, handing your child your phone or tablet can often turn into a 45 minute babysitter which can be harmful especially if done several times a day. I know that it certainly can appease a child in a car who is coming home from day care or hanging out with you in the kitchen while you are cooking, but the truth of the matter is that there are 3 major dangers that could be putting your child in harm's way.

  • There is just not enough research yet to know how tablet/phone usage will affect your child's development. Doctors are already seeing some pretty compulsive behavior that is occurring in children who have open access to these types of devises. I am a therapist who is experiencing a lot of preteens and teens who are coming to the office with gaming addictions. They have had years of playing games on their parents phones and tablets. Parents are concerned that their child is no longer wanting to interact with kids and that his or her first preference is the game.

  • It interferes with a child's natural ability to learn relational skills through face to face contact. . Parents are complaining that although they are confiscating their child's phones after hours, their child is sneaking out and grabbing it without their knowledge and are caught playing games in the middle of the night or perusing instagram or snapchatting with pictures which are all artificial ways of making contact with others that deprives the child from face to face interaction.

  • You are flirting with the potential of developmental danger. There is some indication that not only is it interfering with relational skills but it may be causing some motor delays and muscular strength issues according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Parents oftentimes believe that it is improving hand eye coordination but at what other expense?

So for now while the jury is still out on how your child is affected....follow the guidelines that can assist your child in making good healthy decisions.

Be the role model for healthy interaction for your child. Keep your phone and tablet use to a minimum and use your drive time, down time and wait time for interacting with your child. Limit everyone's use to 15 minutes and keep the phone and tablets on lockdown whenever possible. There is nothing wrong with a tech-savvy family.....but moderation is always the key!

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