I was told this recently by a parent wanting an evaluation for her child’s difficult behavior and problems staying focused. We are seeing more toddler’s insisting on continued contact with their tablet.
Does your toddler constantly ask to play with his or her tablet? Does he take it to bed instead of a teddy bear? Does he or she frequently seem sleepy during the day and/or seem irritable much of the time? Would he rather stay inside than go out to play? Does your child seem socially isolated from peers? These behaviors and others may mean that your toddler is overly dependent on electronics.
First, tablets and other electronic devices definitely have their place. They provide entertainment, education and can serve as a means of communication. However, children can become overly reliant on these devices to the exclusion of activities more likely to promote cognitive, physical and social development. Children of all ages benefit from all types of physical activities, creative play, creative expression, reading, and engaging in problem-solving activities and certainly social interaction with peers and adults.
Hopefully, the behaviors I mentioned in the opening paragraph do not describe your child. Parents have the opportunity to shape their child’s attitudes and behavior related to all elements in their lives. The key is providing a balance by offering access to a wide variety of experiences and encouraging their children to try things out.
Spending time with your child playing, talking, creating and learning is a key element to supporting and encouraging engagement in a wide variety of activities.
Children are not alone when it comes to being overly dependent on electronics. All of us spend time with electronics. Much of the time is most likely beneficial. However, research studies show that a lack of balance in activities can lead to health, social and psychological problems for kids and adults. Whether you want to keep problems from happening or you want to turn problems around, a family approach works best. Families can become more connected through fun activities and set aside time to just share and listen to each other. Through other activities, all family members can become more physically active and improve sleep which improves the health of all.
Get started by working as a family to set some goals that you can work on together to improve the balance of activities. Also, just as parents set standards for self-care, sleep, eating habits and helping around the house for children of all ages, they need to not only set standards for time spent with electronics but encourage healthy alternatives as well.
If you have concerns about your child’s behavior or lifestyle you should share your concerns with your child’s primary care physician.