Tune in, turn off

There are benefits to using technology both for play and learning - but children need a balance of non-screen activities as well.

We all need time to relax and be entertained and that goes for kids too. Screen time (watching TV, computer use and playing video games) can entertain, inspire, give your child a chance to be quiet – and give you a bit of a break from non-stop activity. But just as a diet of nothing but junk food is bad, large doses of poor quality screen time can lead to weight problems and prevent children giving their full attention to more important things, like learning to talk.

The best way for your little one to get the most out of screen time is watching high-quality programmes with you – and in small doses. Screen time can provide opportunities for language development, and can inspire their imagination and start some great games, but it shouldn’t be used as a childminder, nor to send your child off to sleep.

There are some really good programmes/apps out there, so choose what your child’s going to use (with your tot’s help, once they’re able to show a preference) and, if possible, sit down together to watch or play it. When it’s over, switch off the screen. However ‘educational’ a children’s programme/app is – and many are very useful – they are not the same as interaction with you by talking and looking at books or pictures together.

As your child gets older, you’ll need to be firm about screen times. And when you do switch on the screen, follow the eight useful hints on the left. Limit the amount of time your tot spends sitting a day!

8 ways to help your tot get the most out of screen time

  1. Chat with your toddler about what's happening on the screen - point out interesting things, and wonder aloud what might happen next. After viewing, talk about what you've seen and what you liked.
  2. Expand on their viewing. Give your child the chance to take things further by encouraging them in games based on what they have seen. Provide props such as a tea towel for a cloak or make a cardboard crown.
  3. Don’t have screens on at mealtimes and keep them out of the bedroom.
  4. Don’t use screen time to reward or punish.
  5. Turn off screens when you’re not watching and play instead. Turn it off at least one hour before bedtime.
  6. Choose high-quality programmes which have positive messages and are age appropriate.
  7. Use parental controls and filters on your home internet, devices, phone networks and online services.
  8. Always supervise your child when online - they may stumble across something which could worry, upset or confuse them.
Last updated: 15 April 2019