Technology & today’s toddler: How to incorporate and regulate screen time with tech savvy toddlers.

At Bayswater Child Care Assc. (BCCA) we love outdoor play, especially when the weather is this good!  And naturally the kids really love it too. But let’s talk about tech for a moment, because today’s kids are growing up in an increasing digital world.  They see it in use all around them and most curious kids can’t wait to get their hands on it.  Finding a balance that allows kids to participate with technology, but not so much as to figuratively fry their brains, is a challenge for Parents and Childcare providers combined. In the article below we outline our Technology policy and explain how our centres regulate exposure to screen time, plus also provide some great advice for families on creating limits and having alternatives to screen time at home.

What’s screen time?

Screen time is the amount of time spent in front of screens. This includes TVs, smartphones, computers, iPads/tablets and video consoles. Mostly used for entertainment, others may use it as a form of distraction. When appropriately used, screen time can heighten children’s creativity and, in some cases, inspire social interactions. If not monitored, it can lead to kids being distant and distracted.

Effects of screen time 

At the age of 0-6, the brain is still developing. It acts like a sponge, slowly absorbing information. During this age of significant muscle and brain growth, kid are learning to focus their eyesight and listen to a range of sounds. Studies by the World Health Organization show that too much screen time can have adverse effects on your child’s memory, attention, and language skills. This leads to poor communication skills. Social interaction develops better with human interaction than with screens.

It can lead to weight gain due to decreased physical exercise. Over 41 million children were obese in 2016, which has been worsened by inactivity such as screen time. Children should have 1-3 hours of physical activity a day. This can include running in the yard, up and down the stairs, or playing at the park.

Also, eye strain on screens can lead to long term eye conditions such as short-sightedness. Screen time can take away interaction and communication among children, but exposing them to interactive educational programs will help enhance these skills.

Screen time policies at BCCA centres

The use of technology/screen’s is only used in our centres as an additional resource to increase each child’s learning and development – it is never used as a substitute.

Digital technology and computers are an integral part of many childrens daily lives but it is important that it is used to assist in the development for social, physical, emotional, cognitive, language and the creative potential of each child.  Some examples of when we might use technology include, using an app for instructing kids yoga, a music listening station or dancing activities such as Zumba.

We do not use screen’s for under 2’s at all, and 2 -5 year old’s only on certain occasions and not for more than 60 minutes. For example if the Kindy children are shown a movie they are only played it for 60 mins and then the remainder is saved for another day.

At BCCA centres anything shown in our centres is G rated and never shows violent behaviour or inappropriate content.

If you have any questions about a technology activity you observe at your BCCA centre, you are encouraged to speak directly to one of the educators.

Tips to effectively control screen time at home

The best control is to limit the time spent in front of a screen and what your child watches when they get screen time. There are a lot of available apps like Kids Zone or Net Nanny that will help you do this. Alternatives, you can install YouTube for kids and check out movies and games before allowing your child access.

Here at BCCA, we recommend giving your child some rules around screen time. You can agree on how many hours will be spent on screens and how many should be spent doing homework, helping around the house, and physical play. Have schedules your children can follow, so they know your expectations of them. Incorporate games that help develop their brains, such as quizzes and puzzles.

As a rule of thumb, always shut down screens 90 minutes before bedtime. This helps children shut down and calms their brains before they rest. Ensure they get at least ten to eleven hours of sleep.

Creating the right hours and including physical activity to improve interactions can change the effects of screen time. At 0-6 years old look for interactive programs that spark conversations.  There can be some great programs that retell historical histories or teach children about different cultures and countries etc.

Another consideration for parents is monitoring the type of content children are exposed to. Violent content may affect their view of the outside world and change their behaviour. Children like to reenact what they see a favourite character doing so check that the behaviour is something you are happy to see modelled.

In summary integrating technology into a child’s early learning years, at home and at child care, is about setting limits and supervision. We hope these insights assist our BCCA children to have the best balance.

For more information and resources for families around screen time, these websites are useful: