Tuesday, May 28, 2024

THE ONE THING… Parents Should Know About Young Kids & Screen Time (gulp)

Kids and screen time – they’re two things that are often easy to put together, but what’s the impact of this (often much needed!!) quick fix? We spoke to Jessica Rolph – one of US Entrepreneur Magazine’s 100 Powerful Women, INC’s 100 Female Founders, current CEO (and co-founder) of Lovevery and mum of three.

Welcome to The One Thing! Every week we’re bringing you the one nugget of info that you need to know or didn’t know you needed to know! Whether it’s a tip to make your life a little easier, a pearl of wisdom, something to make you think, or maybe something to make you laugh, The One Thing is here to serve you every Friday!

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It’s school holiday time – which you and your frayed nerves will already know full well about if you have kids at home. Occupying little people’s time and attention is no easy feat. And it begins very early on in life, with every other influencer mom on the gram giving their suggestions as to how you should best be filling your baby or toddler’s ‘wake windows’.

From time to time, we all need the break of some quiet time and in those – rather exhausted! – moments, the easiest thing to do can be flicking on the TV or an iPad for a while. It may also be the best option for your mental health at times!

But, how much TV time is too much TV time? Is there anything else we can turn to, to get at least 20 minutes to have a cup of tea and a break?

We talked to entrepreneur and mum of three, Jessica Rolph for her advice. Jessica was a founding partner and the chief operating officer of Happy Family (the leading organic baby food brand in the US), which was sold in 2013 (the Financial Times estimated its value at somewhere between US$250 and $300 million). Then, in 2015 she co-founded Lovevery, which produces age-appropriate, educational development toys and play kits, which now has a huge online presence, and is sold internationally (including in NZ and Australia after launching last month!).

Jessica, alongside her Lovevery colleagues, has done an extensive amount of research into infant brain development, and she has a lot of views around screentime.

In fact, there’s one thing she thinks every parent of very young children should know.

“Parents are under more pressure than ever, but it’s important to remember that limiting screens is possible,” she says. “What we know is that children under age two don’t get any developmental benefit from screens. We also know, from a recent large-scale study, that early screen time is linked to communication and problem-solving delays. Another 2023 study found that more than one hour a day of screen time at 12 months old was associated with poorer executive functioning and focus at age nine.”

If that information frightens you a little bit, or a lot – that’s understandable, and okay. Jessica has tips on what to watch and for how long if you really do need to rely on screens every now and then, why some screens are better than others, how to transition out of screen time and how to set boundaries.

And, look, if you still need screen time because it saves your sanity at times, we encourage you to go ahead and do that when you need it! This story is here to give you some options and information – not to make you feel bad (there’s already enough noise on the internet for parents!).

How Much Is Too Much?

Guidelines are going to vary but children younger than two years shouldn’t have any screen time,” says Jessica. “After that, young children can watch up to 30-60 minutes a day. The thing to think about—if and when you do start incorporating screen time —is whether the programming has been specifically designed and written for young children. Shows that with a slower pace and fewer cuts are best.”

All Screens Are Not Equal

 “Generally speaking, the larger the screen and the further away it is, the better,” she says. “This is related to eye health, blue light exposure, posture, and physical development.”

Is a Bit of Ms Rachel Okay? Are Educational Shows A Good Option if We Need Screen Time?

“Many shows and apps targeted at babies and toddlers are marketed as “educational,” but that doesn’t always mean much,” says Jessica. “The term “educational” isn’t regulated and can be used on any digital media product.”

“From my own experience, it has been easier to do none than some with screens. Dr. Meghan Owens has some great tips on this podcast.

Transitions Are Hard

“Transitions with young children are always hard, especially with something as captivating as screen time,” says Jessica. “Your child needs your help transitioning from the immersive state of watching a show to the reality of here and now.”

“Setting clear limits around screen time can help. Try using a visual timer. Your child may have strong feelings when these transitions happen, but that’s okay. Learning to get through those strong feelings is important too.”

“To help your child bridge the gap between the digital world and the real world, experts recommend engaging with them for the last few minutes or so. Ask them a question about what’s happening on the screen and see if they answer: ‘What’s that character’s name?’ Bring your child a drink of water or a snack, watch the end of their show together. Your child loves when you show interest in things in their world. Asking questions and showing interest can help them switch gears from engaging with screen time to engaging with you.”

What Can We Use in Place of Screens?!

“Invest in independent play,” says Jessica. “Montessori-inspired, open ended toys and toy rotation can help your child engage in progressively longer stretches of independent play. The key is to offer your child toys and puzzles in the beginning of their development windows that engage them with just the right amount of challenge. You can then rotate these toys in and out. Research shows that children play in a deeper way and spend more time exploring with just a few playthings at a time.”

“When you need to get something done, you can pull out a basket or bin of some toys or puzzles that are kept just for special times. You can also dedicate a few minutes a day to independent reading time in a dedicated corner of the room, rotating board books and picture books in and out.”

Be Kind To Yourself as a Parent

“Children don’t come with a guidebook,” says Jessica. “The saying “the days are long but the years are short” is so true. It’s a helpful reminder to soak up all the meaningful moments and remain as present as possible without focusing on what you may worry you aren’t doing ‘right.’”

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