Let’s Play – what about screen time?

Published: 24 April 2020

From: Department of Children and Youth Affairs

Screen time during the emergency

Here’s what the International Play Association has to say on the subject of screen time:

Most families want to find a reasonable balance between time spent on screens and time for other types of play and activities, including family time.

If you have access to screens at home during the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, they can be a great way for your child to:

  • keep in touch with friends, school, social groups and family
  • share experiences, concerns and ideas
  • have a laugh and enjoy themselves
  • get absorbed in a game that takes their full attention
  • take part in creative activities
  • access information, news and advice

It’s understandable to relax some of the usual rules in the current crisis. But spending all day on screens can have negative effects, as well as providing your child with important opportunities and experiences.

For example, your child may find it difficult to get to sleep, or they may miss out on other activities.

Some ways to help your child find a healthy balance:

  • show you understand and are interested. Let them know you understand that playing on screens isn’t all good or bad. You could try playing some of their games, or get them to teach you about apps they like
  • keep moving. Encourage your child to take regular breaks, rather than sitting still or lying down for too long. They can walk around, and do star jumps or press-ups to increase their heart rate
  • get outside. If possible, encourage them to get some outside exercise
  • look out of the window. It’s good for your child’s eyes to change focus by looking at the horizon or distant buildings
  • try keeping your mealtimes screen-free. You’ll have time to talk and appreciate your food
  • try to avoid screens before bedtime. This will make it easier to fall asleep, and to get up in the morning
  • plan together. Discuss with your child how long they feel it’s ok to use screens each day. Get them to make a plan, and ask what would help them stick to it
  • remember. Older children might enjoy doing things they did when they were younger or playing with favourite old toys. This can give them a sense of reassurance and security

Some advice for grown-ups:

  • try to avoid repeatedly checking updates on the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. Try making a conscious decision to turn off or mute notifications. And try only checking the news a couple of times a day

Babies and very young children

Babies can be attracted to screens. This is especially true if people around them are using screens. But the most important things babies and very young children need for their development don’t come from screens. They are about human contact and family members talking, cuddling, singing and playing with them. Below is the WHO’s recommendation for babies and very young children:

Recommendations at a glance:

Infants (less than 1 year) should:

  • Be physically active several times a day in a variety of ways, particularly through interactive floor-based play; more is better. For those not yet mobile, this includes at least 30 minutes in prone position (tummy time) spread throughout the day while awake.
  • Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g. prams/strollers, high chairs, or strapped on a caregiver’s back). Screen time is not recommended. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.
  • Have 14–17h (0–3 months of age) or 12–16h (4–11 months of age) of good quality sleep, including naps.

Children 1-2 years of age should:

  • Spend at least 180 minutes in a variety of types of physical activities at any intensity, including moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity, spread throughout the day; more is better.
  • Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g., prams/strollers, high chairs, or strapped on a caregiver’s back) or sit for extended periods of time. For 1-year-olds, sedentary screen time (such as watching TV or videos, playing computer games) is not recommended. For those aged 2 years, sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour; less is better. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.
  • Have 11-14 hours of good quality sleep, including naps, with regular sleep and wake-up times.

Children 3-4 years of age should:

  • Spend at least 180 minutes in a variety of types of physical activities at any intensity, of which at least 60 minutes is moderate- to vigorous intensity physical activity, spread throughout the day; more is better.
  • Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g., prams/strollers) or sit for extended periods of time. Sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour; less is better. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.
  • Have 10–13h of good quality sleep, which may include a nap, with regular sleep and wake-up times.

You can find out more about the importance of play at the Let’s Play Ireland website  https://www.gov.ie/en/campaigns/lets-play-ireland/

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These new video resources are available here while lots more expert advice for every step of pregnancy, baby and toddler health can also be found at www.mychild.ie

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