Toddlers and Screens

The basic message

We are not going to say “screens are bad” and you should avoid them completely. Even if there was strong evidence for this, it is not very practical! Also, some apps, such as for video calls can be great for keeping in touch – and even infants get benefit from this.

But there are some key points to bear in mind

  • At this age, children are soaking up language and learning
  • They do this best when talking and playing with you and other adults
  • TV, even with sound down, is a huge distraction for toddlers, so they will get more from their play, and have more fun if you TURN IT OFF!

Toddlers also need to move around to develop their bodies, be healthy, and also so they sleep well!

So …

  • Don’t let screens crowd out other things!
  • Pay attention to the balance of time – how long you and your child are spending with TV, tablet or phone
  • Make sure you are also getting lots of time to play and talk together
  • And that your child is getting lots of movement and outdoor play

Use TV and apps together

Your child will get the most from the screens if you use them together – this can be fun for you both!

  • Talk about what you are seeing and hearing and doing
  • Use the Words Up “key messages” to help your child get the most out the media

Be careful with content

Always check content yourself first. If the label has an age limit, this is for a reason – please do not disregard this. Your child may “look ok” viewing inappropriate content, but may in fact be scared or upset – a common cause of fears and bad nights.

Be vigilant for older brothers and sisters involving the toddler in content that is too much for them – they mean well, but it is not a good idea – find other ways for them to play together

Try and pick TV programmes that have high quality language and stories – avoid the ones that use basic or “baby” language as these are less good for learning

How much is too much?

We don’t really know, but evidence suggests the risks increase as children use screens more – so there is no need to panic, but less is better. The following things are the most important:

  • Be aware of how much time you and your child are on TV, tablet or phone – think from time to time if this is crowding out other things
  • when playing and talking together, your child needs you to be face to face and giving full attention – try not to be on the phone and playing at the same time
  • Beware the digital babysitter! Of course you need to leave your child to entertain themselves sometimes, but try to avoid long times alone with a screen
  • Help your child to build the idea of times with, and times without screens. So, none before bedtime, or in the bedroom, aim for none at meals. It’ll make it all the easier when they are older and you need them to stop
  • Look at what habits you are modelling – if your child sees you glued to your phone, or checking it every few minutes, they will pick up the same habits too.

Think about your own use of screens

Be aware of whether you are missing opportunities to interact with your child because your attention is on a screen device.

If your child wants you to talk, be ready to put the phone down – you can always come back to what you were doing
Have some times when the phone is in another room so you are not distracted and can play and talk with your child – it will be very rewarding when you do!

Involve your child in your screen use – for example, if you are doing an online shop, your child can help find things, or remember what to look for next