Technology and Your Toddler Part 2

This is a follow up from my first post on using technology with your toddler. We are inundated with technology from endless apps on our phones to constant questions for Alexa. There’s not a lot of information yet about the effects of so much technology on us socially, emotionally, and physically, especially on toddlers. From what I’ve researched, I’ve come up with some tips to balance out technology use so that it doesn’t take over your life or the life of your little one.

Technology is neither good nor bad. 

Technology has its place in the home. Some parents are told that all technology is terrible while others feel that a few hours (or many, many hours) a day of technology is a good thing. Some sneaky marketers out there want you to believe that your child can learn anything and everything from apps. We don’t need to be afraid of technology, we just need to be educated about how to use it. How much is too much? Do I let my child have free access to all of the YouTube that his little fingers can find and somehow manages to find despite being only three and not knowing how to read?! Below are recommendations on smart technology use from the AAP.

For children under two years of age, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following:

  • For children under 18 months of age, use the phone for chatting conversations with relatives. Using it for other reasons, like to entertain baby when you’re cooking, using the bathroom, etc. isn’t encouraged.

Don’t worry, I’ll share more ideas though on what to do when you do need to take that daily shower and baby is bored in my next post.

  • For children 18 months to five years of age, limit screen time to one hour per day. And make sure it is high quality screen time.

What is meant by high quality screen time? T.V. Shows like Sesame Street or PBS Kids are good channels to go to. It’s recommended that you spend time watching these show with them so that they understand what they’re seeing.

Technology not being good or bad also means that we don’t use it as a reward or a punishment. Wait, what? Yep, that’s right. Telling your child, “If you are good here at the store, I will let you watch an extra hour of t.v.” is rarely effective in the moment to get better behavior but it also creates this energy (I know, such a an academic term, right, but stay with me) around the phone or i-pad. In their book, How to Talk So Small Children Listen, Faber & King discuss that by making something, like technology, the object of a reward or punishment, you create more desire for it. Now, if your child does do something like throw the phone at his sibling, then yes, you’re taking away the technology (the phone) but banning technology for a month for instance, isn’t going to make your child lose interest in technology. They’ll just be pretty upset about it and then you might have to back peddle two weeks in when you realize that the month long ban was a bit extreme.

How to Turn Off the Technology

When it is time for your child to transition to a different activity, here’s a few tips to make those transitions easier

  1. Give them a five minute warning (and then maybe a two minute warning if they need it.) If you have a visual timer, that’s even better.
  2. Sing a goodbye song to the technology and turn it off.
  3. If your child is getting upset and crying, acknowledge that it’s sad to say goodbye to an activity. It’s okay for them to feel sad. You don’t have to give in and give the phone back. Just let them know you hear that they’re sad.
  4. Once your child is calm, give your child options of what the next activity will be, if possible (i.e. Do you want to play with the trucks now or do you want to go outside and run around?)

Experience Teaches Toddlers Not Technology

Toddlers learn through experience and interacting with other people. Sure, there are some fun songs on YouTube and some super cute videos on Sesame Street that can be fun but the real learning is in the sharing of these songs with a parent.

  • Turn off the background noise. Playing t.v. in the background is linked with worse outcomes for language and cognition.
  • Books are better for learning than apps! Read books often with your children. If your child doesn’t seem to like books, check out my last post on book reading or visit Colorin Colorado for some ideas on how to spice up your book reading.

Use technology wisely. Common Sense Media offers some fantastic ideas on how to use technology wisely. Please subscribe to new posts below and send in any questions you might have!


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