I will cut right to the chase: if you want to raise a child who loves to learn, read, can think critically, and be creative, then delay and limit the use of electronics for as long as possible.
Before you continue reading, please know that this post may be harsh to some. That is not my intention. What I am about to present is based on many years of observation of many families. Overwhelmingly, the families that opted to significantly limit, or even completely delay their young children's online activity, produced students who were critical thinkers, better readers, and more creative. The CDC may keep changing their guidelines, but our outcomes have been consistent for years.
I am not opposed to online learning, once a child knows how to read. I am not opposed to quality educational television in small quantities. However, all too often, young children are given access to tablets, smart phones, video games, and unlimited television long before there is time to develop the beneficial skills and habits listed above. Once kids get a taste of the immediate gratification and constant entertainment provided by technology, the harder it is to get them to develop their imaginations, critical thinking, or desire to read. Screen time is addictive and easy to rely upon.
Want to develop a love of reading? Imagination? Creativity? Critical thinking?
These things take time, a lot of time. The majority of your young child’s time should be spent playing. Unstructured play is the very best early learning tool next to reading aloud. Unstructured play is the platform for imagination, creativity, problem solving, and learning. Children don’t need a lot of toys for play time and they absolutely do not need technology. In fact the best materials to foster unstructured play are books, art supplies, building materials, such as blocks, Legos, and puzzles.
Keep it simple. Pay close attention to the random items especially young children find entertaining. Empty boxes, pots and pans, funnels, sand, and yogurt containers provide valuable, free enjoyment. Collect and keep these kinds of things handy, and don’t worry so much about the little things from around your home that your little one wants to play with. As long as they are safe, allow them to do their job: learn through play.
General Screen time Guidelines by Age
Screen time for kids six and under should not be online. A little educational TV is ok, but most of their time should be spent playing, learning, and experiencing the world. They don’t need you to entertain them, provide them with the recommended materials, then stand back and let them lead the way. Keep them safe, but don’t micromanage.
Kids over six who have begun learning to read may begin using a few online resources for learning. TeachYourMonstertoRead.com and Starfall.com are excellent. Aside from that, educational shows and documentaries (check out our Activity Guides for recommendations and ideas) should amount to no more than about an hour a day.
As children become fluent readers and writers, more of their schooling may require more online time and that is ok. Remain diligent about how much time is spent on entertainment. As long as their time online or in front of a screen is constructive, then go with it. Ultimately, you know what is best for your children and how much screen time they can handle.
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