Is Banning Tablets Really What's Best for Children?

May 01, 2018

The technology driven society that we live in, grow in, and raise our families in is still relatively young. In this infancy we, as parents, are trying to find the best navigational tools in order to make well educated decisions.

One question I hear parents ask relates to the amount of time spent on devices for children ages 10 and younger. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following:

  • Under 18 months: avoid screens except for video-chatting
  • 18-24 months: can be exposed to high-quality programs, such as PBS, with parents to guide learning
  • 2-5 years: limit to 1 hour of high-quality media with parents
  • 6 and older: maintain consistent limitations to media use and ensure that it does not interfere with sleep or physical activities

However, many young children have devices such as tablets on hand. They’re used for games, videos, or as a distraction which prompts “good behavior” in public places, such as restaurants.

An article posted in the Wall Street Journal gave an account of a personal experience that suggested banning tablets for children is best. When their child was not permitted use on weekdays and had limited weekend access, they observed improved behavior, better focus, and increased physical activity.

What Do You Think?

Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help make the best decision for your family:

  • How are tablets being used by young children?
  • What is your child’s behavior like before & after time on the tablet?
  • What is your child watching on the tablet?

The amount of time a child spends on a device should be monitored, but timing is just as important. My focus and interest of concern, as a mental health professional, is what are your child’s emotional needs and how are they being met? Tablets and phones have intellectually stimulating material and can be beneficial. However, they are not a replacement for your child’s emotional needs. Sometimes, in the tech driven world we live in, we can lose sight of that distinction. When your child is upset, instead of offering a tablet as a distraction, ask yourself if a similar benefit could be offered with a hug or a compassionate voice?

As with most parenting decisions, there is no one size fits all answer. What’s right for one family may not be right for another. Know your child and engage with them during screen time. Be flexible with screens, be mindful of your child’s emotional needs and respond accordingly. There are few things in the world that cannot be changed. If you’ve been a parent who is generous with screen time but are noticing some negative impacts, try pulling back some. Yes, you may initially see some increased negative behavior while your child is adjusting to the change, but that will be short lived.

Programs, like Net Nanny, are helpful tools to track use of time on various devices such as phones, tablets, and computers. Remember, adults are just as prone to over usage so these programs can help provide a healthy balance for adults and children alike.