“Whether you are a parent or not, carving out time to turn off your devices, to disconnect from the wired world and engage with the real people who are all around you, is one of the best gifts you give yourself and the people you love”​.

While many childcare centres pride themselves on creating rich, screen-free environments that foster physical, social, and cognitive growth, they frequently encounter the challenge of excessive screen use at home. At times, this differing experience between home and childcare can impact children’s behaviour, attention spans, and learning processes, underscoring the need for a collaborative approach between childcare providers and parents to ensure a healthy balance of screen time

In an entertaining, yet informative segment of a widely-watched television show, families were challenged to relinquish their screens for a week, spotlighting the deep-rooted role digital devices play in our lives. This modern-day conundrum is not confined to our homes. The outcomes of children being permitted to be on their devices for inordinate amounts of time can be seen in childcare centres, too. This leaves supervisors often navigating the complex dynamic of screen time with crucial conversations with parents.

Acknowledging the minimal or non-existent role screens play within the centre, supervisors can still take proactive steps to support healthy digital habits in their child-centric community:

6 Strategies to Balance Screen Time in Early Childhood Settings

  1. Host Parental Workshops: Organize sessions for parents that highlight the impact of excessive screen time on child development and offer insights into alternative activities that promote growth and learning. Contact Sentient should you wish to facilitate a parent education workshop on the topic of screen time.
  2. Share Educational Resources: Provide parents with articles, research findings, and expert recommendations on managing screen time at home, emphasizing the importance of hands-on, interactive experiences for young children. I utilize Google Scholar and search “screen time children” for research on the topic.
  3. Introduce a Balanced Screen Time Policy: Develop a guideline for parents that outlines recommended screen time limits based on age, as advised by pediatric experts, and encourage families to adopt these practices at home.
Age Screen Time Limit (per day)
Infants younger than 2 years Avoid screen time altogether
2 to 5 years No more than 1 hour per day

**An article addressing time limits by age may be found by <clicking here>.

  1. Offer a List of Recommended Digital Content: For families that do use screens, curate a list of educational apps, programs, and games that are age-appropriate and offer meaningful learning experiences. A popular Canadian based website is MediaSmarts (mediasmart.ca). A robust U.S. based website is Common Sense Media (commonsensemedia.org).
  2. Create a Community Forum: Establish a platform, such as a monthly newsletter or a private social media group, where parents can share experiences, challenges, and successes in managing screen time, fostering a supportive community spirit. Learn how to create a private Facebook group <here>.
  3. Model Screen-Free Activities: During parent-teacher meetings or open days, demonstrate interactive games, crafts, and activities that parents can easily replicate at home, showing that engaging alternatives to screen time can be both simple and enriching.

By focusing on these strategies, childcare supervisors can extend the screen-free philosophy of their centres into the homes of the children they care for. This collaborative effort can help bridge the gap between the minimal screen use at the centre and the digital habits at home, promoting a more balanced approach to screen time that supports the holistic development of young learners.

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