With summer vacation in full swing, young people may find themselves with many hours of free time on their hands. Many will likely turn to technology for entertainment.
With the use of electronic devices and social media on the rise, Susan Bauerfeld, a licensed clinical psychologist in Wilton, said it is important for parents to be aware of its impact.
“I believe the most significant impact is that extended time with media — particularly passive viewing of media — limits time for free play and face-to-face interactions,” she said.
“Free play and face-to-face interactions are the richest environments for the development and practice of language skills and executive function (EF) skills.”
In order to manage their use of media in a healthy manner, Bauerfeld said, children need to have EF skills.
“Making some media-free down time, time for creative free play and time for face-to-face interactions a priority is critically important for developing children,” she said.
“As media creeps in, if parents engage with the media alongside their children and discuss the content — as well as how to stop and start, when to play, et cetera — they can mitigate some of the adverse impacts.”
Bauerfeld said children under the age of two are “particularly affected adversely by prolonged exposure to media” because it interferes with face-to-face interactions, which profoundly benefit language and cognitive development.
According to Bauerfeld, the American Association of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours a day of recreational media use.
Because of this, she said, “the issue of balance and self-regulation with media is far more important than strict adherence to a rigid time limit.”
Bauerfeld said the later children are introduced to technology, the better — and not before the age of two.
“Once introduced, it is helpful for parents to be actively engaged alongside their children when they are using media,” she said, “and to have an ongoing, explicit focus on teaching how to manage the media and its content.”
Although it is “alarming how much time children are spending with media,” said Bauerfeld, “media is here to stay and we must figure out how to manage it in healthy ways, rather than focusing on the alarm and potential threat of it.”