TECHNOLOGY is all around us, and today's child is as attached to the iPad as children in years past were attached to colouring books. Even if you're not the type of parent to give your child free access to tablets and other technological devices, they will become exposed to them at school and in other social arenas, and pretty soon you'll have to get with the flow and get your own.
But how do you draw the balance between what's OK, and what's over the accepted level of media immersion?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has some recommendations for families when it comes to being media monitors.
The AAP says for children younger than 18 months, parents should discourage use of screen media other than video chatting.
•For parents of children 18-24 months who want to introduce digital media, select high-quality programming/apps and use media together with children.
•For children two to five years, limit screen use to one hour a day of high-quality programming, and co-view with children.
•Avoid using media as the only way to calm a child.
•Keep bedrooms, mealtimes and parent-child playtimes screen-free for all. Stop using screens an hour before bedtime and remove devices from bedrooms before bedtime.
•Avoid fast-paced programmes and apps with lots of distracting content and violent content.
The AAP said the goal is for parents and caregivers to prepare children to grow up in a media-saturated world, from infancy (when video chatting is fine), to toddlerhood (when apps should be chosen wisely), to preschool (when effective programmes such as Sesame Street can help them learn pro-social behaviours or new ideas to engage their minds).
The AAP said parents should be cognisant that most of the content labelled as “educational” in app stores have not been evaluated. Also, some features of “interactivity” may actually distract from parent-child teaching interactions and child comprehension.
It said the most important interactive element is how an adult supports and plays with the child while using media, not the bells and whistles of the app or game itself — despite marketing claims.