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I am often asked whether I believe letting a child use a tablet or smart phone at a young age is a good or a bad idea. In my opinion, the answer depends entirely on how they use it and what for. There is no question that excessive screen time is bad for children; particularly if they do not get sufficient active, imaginative, social and creative play offline. However, in moderation, as part of a balanced play diet; I have seen, both through my work and with my own children, just how educational the right sort of content can be.
The content and characters children encounter through on-screen media really do affect them. Provide the right positive role models, stories and interactions, backed up by positive offline support.
You can help children learn:
This makes the recent concerns about some YouTube kids content all the more worrying. However, it does underline how important it is to restrict your children to trustworthy, quality content like that produced by Toddler Fun Learning.
Of course, the challenge of restricting your child to the content and amount of time you think is appropriate is not an easy one. Believe me, I’ve seen the scale of the tantrums first hand! However, it is vital and it does get easier. Clear, consistent rules around screen time really are accepted by children if you stick with them and help them slowly learn how to self-manage screen use. Something that will stand them in good stead as they get older.
In the end, the power of tablets for kids come to fruition. In my opinion, when you harness the natural engagement they provide to help simultaneously entertain and teach your child. Never think they replace offline learning but as a tool, as part of a broad balanced play diet they can be invaluable.
Lucy Gill created and ran the Good App Guide until 2016, reviewing hundreds of apps for children. She now works with developers to help create great new apps and speaks regularly to parents about choosing digital content for kids and managing screen time.