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Babies and toddlers love playing with smartphones and tablets, and quickly get the hang of them.

When you’re a busy parent, it is easier to keep your baby or young child entertained while you cook the dinner or finish a car journey. You may also feel it’s important for your child to get a head start on learning digital skills.

However, too much screen time may be harmful for babies and children, even at a very young age.

Children are exposed to screens for longer amounts of time than ever before. This widespread access to smartphones, tablets, games consoles, TVs and laptops is causing concern amongst doctors internationally.

Touch-screen technology makes it very easy for even babies to use tablets. This affects children’s rapidly developing brains. Over-exposure has an impact on attention span and concentration, as well as appetite control. Screen time encourages a more sedentary lifestyle. Babies should be encouraged to explore the world physically and toddlers need to be active for three hours a day to grow healthily.

At what age should screen time start?

Babies and toddlers need a lot of physical activity. Physical play contributes to your child’s mental and emotional development. Every child needs the chance to interact with the parent and other children, which is crucial for learning to talk and relate to people.

Time spent playing with a tablet or smartphone means the baby is not crawling, walking, climbing and exploring their environment. Being active means that the child is less likely to become overweight or have health problems later in life. As In older children, too much screen time may also cause sleeping difficulties.

Watching passively is not advisable for under-twos and hence children under two should not spend any time using TV, computers or electronic games when alone.

There may be a place for interactive media that encourages parent and child to communicate while they’re playing alongside each other.

Hence in general screentime can start anytime after two years of age.

How much screen time should my child have?

If one decides to let their baby or toddler play with the device, 15 or 20 minutes should be set as a limit, when their attention is likely to fade anyway. One must be ready with something new and interesting to do next.

For older children, it is recommended to have a limit of one or two hours of total screen time per day. This includes TV, DVDs and computers as well as mobile devices.

How can I make the most of technology?

Limit the toddler’s exposure as much as possible.

Bear in mind that, for busy parents, it’s easy to overestimate how active their child is.

Keep TVs and computers out of child’s bedroom.

Don’t let the child be on a screen for more than two hours a day in total.

Choose programs that have an educational element.

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