At What Age Can Children Start Using Screens?
Today, no one dares to question that technology and screens are here to stay. What we must rethink is what use we choose to make of them, especially when it comes to children. So, at what age is it appropriate for children to start using screens? We’ll tell you about it below.
When is it appropriate for my child to start using screens?
There’s no definitive consensus on the age at which children should be exposed to and use screens. Rather, perhaps there’s a gap between recommendations and reality. Therefore, some focus on the appropriate age, while others think of the day-to-day difficulties that arise when it comes to sustaining that limit. Moreover, when we talk about opinions, we think not only about what professionals recommend but also about what happens inside a family.
In general terms, some experts agree that it’s not a good idea for children to start using screens before the age of 2. Rather, screen exposure should be avoided altogether until that age. However, there are also those who argue that they shouldn’t have contact until the age of 6. What’s certain is that educators, psychologists, and pediatricians all agree on the importance of gradualness and accompaniment.
Control time and activity
In this regard, it’s important to recognize that children were born into a world where screens are omnipresent. But their use can’t be left to chance. Therefore, we must establish rules about the time children spend on these devices and the applications or contents they access. It’s also advisable to introduce their use gradually. For example, between the ages of 3 and 5, children should only use screens for a maximum of one hour a day.
Many professionals say that we should try to postpone contact with screens as much as possible. However, it’s also true that devices such as tablets have become allies at school when it comes to teaching certain content. Therefore, preventing them from socializing and having contact with screens would imply that children remain in a kind of digital illiteracy.
Why delay the use of screens in children?
The neuropsychologist Álvaro Bilbao, explains in his book “El cerebro de los niños explicado a los padres” (The Brain of Children Explained to Parents), why the use of screens in children should be delayed. There, he mentions the role of the “striatum”, a part of the brain that’s related to tastes, interests, and attention. If there’s a powerful stimulus and the gratification is immediate, then the striatum wants to repeat the same experience.
Therefore, what place is left later for other activities? Like reading, painting, or riding bikes. Perhaps, these are fun, but less powerful practices. For example, learning to ride a bicycle requires coping with falls, while gratification and achievement come later. This is how Bilbao refers that the risk of using screens at an early age is that it discourages curiosity and motivation and focuses attention on a few objects of desire: Tablets, cell phones, and the like.
Finally, Bilbao emphasizes that the early use of screens has an impact on children’s brains. In this regard, it’s responsible for difficulties linked to attention -through Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)- and addictive disorders.
How to regulate the use of technology in children
Here are some tips to accompany children in the use of technology.
Set a good example
It’s important to keep in mind that we’re the main role models for the behavior of our children. For example, if children see us using screens all day long, they’ll believe that this is an appropriate behavior. Therefore, we must be coherent between what we say and what we do.
Keep screens away from certain moments
There are certain moments in which we should do without screens in order to be able to talk, share with the family, or rest. For example, it’s advisable to prohibit the use of devices before sleeping, during meals, or when we do various tasks.
Avoid using screens just because it’s convenient for us
The use of electronic devices should have an educational purpose. When we want to rest, it’s better for children to play a board game, read a story in bed, or go out to play with friends than to offer them a screen.
Suggest playful alternatives
There are different ways to keep a child entertained. Sometimes, you can suggest that they go outdoors and, other times, you may need them to be more quiet, for example, if you need to finish a report while your child is entertained. Little ones can recreate thousands of games and stories with few elements, but we must encourage them to do so by bringing them alternatives and accessories.
Be realistic with your expectations and what you can ask of children
In childhood, children are in the midst of their development and haven’t yet mastered their emotions. That’s why, sometimes, when they feel frustrated or don’t get what they want, they throw tantrums. And this is logical because there are still areas of the brain that impose themselves over those that achieve self-control.
So, it’s important that we agree on rules with children and that we can be clear and specific about how we’ll act with technology. We can’t expect them to behave like adults with the use of devices if they’re still children.
Raising awareness about when children should start using screens
With all that said, it’s not about creating guilt or a collective panic regarding the use of screens. The objective is to be able to access reliable information based on scientific studies so that we don’t get carried away by myths or comments that aren’t validated. With reliable information, we’ll be able to make better decisions.It might interest you...
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
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- Melamud, Ariel, & Waisman, Ingrid. (2019). Pantallas: discordancias entre las recomendaciones y el uso real. Archivos argentinos de pediatría, 117(5), 349-351. https://dx.doi.org/10.5546/aap.2019.349
- Bilbao, Alvaro (2015) El cerebro del niño explicado a los padres. Plataforma Actual.