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Should screen time be limited for preschoolers?

Limiting screen time is often talked about for middle- and high school students. But, should parents worry about how much time their preschoolers are spending in front of a tablet?

While adults and caregivers find it easy to entertain or distract little kids with a smart phone or a tablet when they need just a few minutes to jump on a conference call or make their way through the checkout line at the supermarket, it is extremely important to limit screen time for preschoolers – for different reasons.

“There are a lot of skills that preschoolers need to learn that involve social interaction that might not be happening on a two-dimensional screen,” says Elizabeth Sowell, PhD, director of the Developmental Cognitive Neuroimaging Laboratory at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

In our digital and tech-savvy world comprised of television, streaming videos, games and websites, recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) limits screen time to no more than 1 to 2 hours a day for preschoolers.

Why the limits?

According to Jenny Radesky, MD, an assistant professor of developmental behavioral pediatrics at the University of Michigan Medical School and a member of the AAP Council on Communications and Media, “Too much screen use in early childhood has been linked to language delays, trouble in school, obesity, and sleep problems.” Radesky advises that parents should plan out their child’s screen time – both how much and what they watch “so that media use doesn’t start to displace other important activities.”

What should they watch?

Parents should try to point kids in the direction of watching shows that have a strong educational element such as Sesame Street or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Also, watching or playing along with them is beneficial because parents can help preschoolers to better process what they learn.

“Studies do show that toddlers and preschoolers learn more from screen media when their parents watch with them,” Radesky says.

This article was drawn from a feature on WebMD

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