Under 5 Energize is supporting centres with the question often raised by parents “how much screen time is too much screen time?”. Current national and international research is showing a strong common thread advising that ‘less is best’ and that children under two should have no exposure at all.

In an ideal world, no exposure would be optimal - but some would argue it would be very difficult in this day and age of a technology-driven environment. We know children are being introduced to technology earlier and earlier, with some schools insisting children as young as five and six years of age need an iPad to assist their learning - even though research has shown that reliance on technology can decrease brain development.

The old adage ‘use it or you lose it’ rings true with today’s fast paced technology, which doesn’t appear to require frontal lobe activity - causing atrophy in the very area of the brain that should be growing (Dunckley V 2014).

Under 5 Energize’s research into this emotionally debated topic has discovered some startling facts that may surprise many parents. Research that spans the last five to ten years is now being published, showing over-exposure to media screens (in particular TV screens before the age of three) has a detrimental impact on our children socially, emotionally, physically and cognitively.

Although this all sounds rather daunting for parents of young children, Under 5 Energize believes it’s quite simple! Ask yourself the question, “Who is the screen time for? You or your child?” and ultimately less is best!

So what can we do instead?

Building blocks, pens and paper, craft supplies and dress-ups are great examples of meaningful play. These can keep children engaged in activity, inspire creativity and encourage mind-expanding make-believe play.
 
Let them try watering the grass, dusting the furniture, washing the car or ‘cooking’ with a few pots and pans on the floor. Sorting the socks might engage them as much as any store-bought game.
 
Look for safe local parks and playgrounds to meet up and share new experiences with other children of the same age. Dress for the elements and let them get a little wet as they splash through the puddles. Visit the local library and participate in under five activities (check out Be Active on the Sport Waikato website for under five opportunities).
 
Reading at bedtime is wonderful but make time to share stories at other times of the day as well. Tales of adventure and fantasy can have immediate, positive effects on children, boosting their creativity and inspiring make-believe.

American Academy of Pediatrics, Policy Statement http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/132/5/958.full
Dunckley, V. Gray Matters: Too Much Screen Time Damages the Brain - Neuroimaging research shows excessive screen time damages the brain. Psychology Today, Mental Wealth. Published online February 27, 2014.http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mental-wealth/201402/gray-matters-too-much-screen-time-damages-the-brain

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