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Introducing Your Child to Media: What Age is Good for Electronics?

It is impossible to ignore the prevalence of mobile phones and tablets in daily life today. Many of us can’t imagine going through our day to day without access to instant communication, information, and entertainment. However, the rapid increase in the usage of mobile technology across society has created a unique problem for parents. The likelihood is that you’ve probably heard a variety of arguments regarding when is best to introduce your children to screens, with a wide variance in reasons supporting one side or the other. TAP is here to help you understand when is the best time to introduce your children to screens and clarify how screen time can affect your child’s behavior

How Early is Too Early?

The American Association of Pediatrics recently defined new guidelines for parents, and among their recommendations is that parents should avoid screen time for children under two years of age as much as possible. One of the risks parents run if they sit their young children in front of screens too young or too often is developing symptoms of media addiction. While the research is relatively new, a recent study shows that premature and excessive exposure to screens and media can have detrimental effects on children’s development. Sarah E. Domoff, and her research team from Central Michigan University analyzed hundreds of family’s media habits and determined that symptoms of media addiction often begin much earlier than parents anticipate. The AAP guidelines can help avoid this reliance on media that serves purely as entertainment. For children from 24 months to five years old, parents should prioritize high quality, informational programs and watch with their children to help them understand what they’re being exposed to on the screen. The AAP also suggests setting time limits on young children’s time spent daily in front of screens. Setting aside screen-free times, whether it be mandatory outdoor time or family meals, is a great method of managing children’s screen time while also encouraging familial connectivity and diversity of hobbies and interests.

What Are the Dangers of Media Addiction? How Young Is Too Young for A Smartphone?

Unfettered access to electronics and screens for adolescents can manifest in a variety of behaviors that can harm a child’s social ability, academic success, and familial relationships. The reward cycle of social media and constant instantaneous entertainment can alter the chemical functions of a child’s brain, altering healthy development, and producing a dependency. This dependency often manifests in difficulty separating a child from their device, a difficulty forming physical and emotional bonds, struggles with academic performance, and even aggressive behavior. The stakes are raised when smartphones are taken into consideration. Smartphones offer many benefits, from immediate access to emergency services to easy communication with parents. However, free access to the internet in the palm of your child’s hand also presents a risk. Cyberbullying, online predators, and targeted marketing are all made easier with younger and younger children gaining access to the internet. While it is commonplace for younger and younger children to have access to smartphones, researchers discourage this practice. Instead, the research suggests that delaying access to a smartphone for your child can lessen the likelihood of them experiencing negative or dangerous habits and content online. The ideal age for your child to start using a smartphone is thought to be from 12-14; at TAP we suggest having it be closer to the upper end of this recommendation, so closer to 14. We also recommend not going by physical age alone but also basing this decision on the child’s maturity level. All of these suggestions are crucial, but it is also important for you as a parent to have an open dialogue with your children about the positives and negatives of spending time in front of a screen or open access to the internet.

In Need of a Media Detox?

If you are recognizing the early symptoms in your child of media addiction, the best route for your family may be a media detox. The Attachment Place (TAP) specializes in helping children build social bonds that exist outside of their cell phone screens. We can help you understand how your child’s dependence on screens may help feed aggressive or negative behavior, and hinder relationships, and work directly with you through our Parent Coaching sessions to craft a plan that establishes healthy media habits. Contact us today!