What is the right age for electronic gadgets?

What is the right age for electronic gadgets?

As the world is becoming only more digitally driven, it is impossible to keep children away from smartphones, laptops, computers and other electronic gadgets that have long become an inseparable part of our lives.

From the time babies are able to grasp various objects in their hands, they reach for gadgets of all kinds on the way of exploring the world around. The little ones regularly watch their parents talking on the phones and working on laptops. Kids have been the center of their parents’ phone cameras since the day they were born, constantly posing for pictures and videos. Some parents prefer video calls to keep in touch with distant relatives, and babies appear to be well-acquainted with such modern technologies. And, of course, kids love to be occupied with their parents’ gadgets during a long wait or a car ride. Frankly speaking, it’s only natural that children become curious about these devices, show their genuine interest and can’t wait to get a gadget of their own.

So, what's the right age for introducing a baby to these attractive gadgets, and how?

Most pediatricians and children’s health specialists recommend waiting until a child is at least two years old. It’s a common knowledge that screen-based activities limit kids’ real-world experiences. Live interaction with parents, siblings, and other children will be far more beneficial to a baby than interacting with a screen. The first three years of life are the most critical for lingual, emotional, social and motor skills development, so the longer you wait, the better it will be for your child!

Considering the early childhood to be a period of rapid physical and cognitive development, the World Health Organization released its recommendations "WHO Guidelines on Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour and Sleep for Children under 5 Years of Age" as of April 24, 2019. Among its other recommendations, WHO advises on limiting sedentary screen time, which includes watching television or videos, or playing computer games. Here are WHO screen time recommendations by age:

• Infants (less than 1 year of age): Screen time is not recommended.

• 1-2 years old: No screen time for a 1-year-old. No more than an hour for 2-year-olds, with less time preferred.

• 3 to 4 years old: No more than one hour.

However, most experts agree that children of 2 years and older may benefit from electronic media with educational content.  There are many games and interactive activities on hand-held devices that go beyond pure entertainment. They engage children in thinking skills - like memory games, puzzles - and spatial reasoning activities; and nurturing skills, such as digital pets; and creative skills - drawing, music-making, story-writing. There are many apps that teach basic maths, time, geography, programming skills.

To get the most out of the screen time and avoid the negative effects of gadgets use on the young minds, parents should be involved in their children’s experience with electronic devices, especially at a young age.

Therefore, it would be highly advisable to:

• Monitor the child’s media usage: supervise playing and learning activities of kids using smartphones, tablets, as well as watching TV, online films and programmes.

• Develop screen time rules.

• Use parental controls to block or filter the internet content and satellite TV channels.

• Avoid fast-paced programming and eliminate advertising on apps.

• Set a good example for your children of when and how to use gadgets.

Today’s generation is born in a digital era, so we cannot hide or try not to expose children to new technologies. Assimilating gadgets into the daily life of the child in the right way can give immense benefits. To ensure quality screen time and a safe experience, parents should teach their kid how to use favourite gadgets in moderation, and ensure that this is just one of many activities he or she gets to learn from, explore and enjoy.

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